15 Democratic senators complain to Obama about Obamacare

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The Obamacare disaster reached the Oval Office Wednesday when the president was forced to meet with 15 worried Democratic senators who are facing the voters next year.

The senators went to the White House because of growing complaints from voters about Obamacare’s devastating impact on their finances and health-care access.

The Oval Office meeting allows the senators to show themselves standing up for their constituents. That’s a remarkable split for a caucus that allowed parts of government to close in early October rather than accept any GOP reforms of Obamacare.

But the plight of Democratic politicians didn’t get much sympathy from the president, who offered only promises of more speeches and “communications” efforts to sell a law that is causing massive losses of insurance coverage and skyrocketing premiums.

So far, only a few Democratic senators have publicly backed proposals to slow the ambitious takeover of the nation’s health care sector. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, and New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen have publicly called for changes, such as an extended deadline for enrollment. (Related: Five Senate Dems pushing for Obamacare enrollment delay said existing plans could be kept)

If six Democratic senators lose their seats next November, the GOP would gain a majority in the Senate.

Shortly after the meeting, Obama called New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie and “was glad to congratulate him on his victory” in Tuesday’s election, White House spokesman Jay Carney explained to a press gaggle. He then flew to Texas to give a speech about Obamacare and to attend two more fundraisers for the 2014 election.

Alaska Democrat Mark Begich has consistently supported the health-sector takeover, but he released a blistering statement to Alaska’s voters to show he’s distancing himself from the massive project.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable in this day and age that the administration can’t deliver on the promises it made to all Americans because of technical problems with a website,” Begich said in his statement, titled “Promises Not Enough, Need Results Now.”

“There is an understandable crisis in confidence because the administration has yet to get it off the ground,” he said.

The “crisis” phrase has already been used by Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

But Begich is still backing the law, and slammed the state’s GOP-led government for not joining the program.

“Before the Affordable Care Act, 34 percent of Alaskans who applied for health insurance each year were denied by their insurance companies. These are most often people with pre-existing conditions — those that need medical care the most,” he said in his statement.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall was also at the meeting, and he also distanced himself from the program by asking for the enrollment deadline to be extended. “I urged the president again to extend the enrollment period to give consumers enough time to make an informed decision about their family’s health insurance options,” said his statement.

But he was less outspoken that Begich. “The rollout of HealthCare.gov has not been smooth — to say the least — and I shared the concerns of Coloradans directly with the president,” he said.

The White House released a bland description of the two-hour meeting, which dramatically illustrates the growing political crisis caused by Obama’s mismanagement of his attempt to federal the nation’s health-care sector.

“The President and Vice President met with over a dozen Senate Democrats to discuss the progress that’s been made to extend health care coverage to more Americans and to hear their input on existing challenges with implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” said the release.

Obama offered reassurances that the crippled website would soon be operational, and promised to pump up the volume of the pro-Obamacare public relations.

Obama “discussed ongoing efforts to ramp up communication and education outreach to consumers who have received or might receive letters about how their individual market plans might be affected.”

Some of the senators, however, highlighted the website’s poor security, which could create a new scandal if hackers extract Americans’ personal I.D.

“I also told the president that, for the Affordable Care Act to succeed, consumers need to be confident their personal information is secure,” said Udall’s statement. “We need to do everything in our power to protect the online marketplace from hackers and cyberattacks.”

Obama offered his reassurances that the mangled website would be made secure. “The President also reiterated that the Administration is working to protect the privacy and security of consumers and to ensure that online Marketplace applications are protected by stringent security standards, with ongoing testing to help safeguard personal information,” said the White House release.

But during his Dallas appearances later in the day — at a local synagogue and at the home of wealthy personal injury lawyer Peter Kraus — Obama was hard-pressed to say how or if he intended to contain the Obamacare disaster. In addition to repeating that “nobody is angrier” about the failure of the law and recycling references to non-functioning “cash registers” that first appeared in his “ShamWow” speech in the White House Rose Garden several weeks ago, Obama took a few perfunctory digs at Republicans, but he offered no fresh ideas on the catastrophe. (Related: Obama’s ShamWow speech showcased misleading witness [VIDEO])

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Neil Munro