NEW: Obama and CEOs discuss steps to address policy cancellations, White House says
The House votes on a bill to address canceled insurance plans
Biden campaigns in NC with Sen. Hagan, who has pushed for changes to Obamacare
Thirty-nine Democrats vote for GOP House bill aiming to reverse canceled policies
While 39 House Democrats voted with Republicans on a proposed fix to canceled insurance policies under Obamacare on Friday, sources on both sides said more would have defected without President Barack Obama’s mea culpa over the mess.
As it is, the vote is an embarrassment for the President, but it could have been worse. Another 18 defectors could have given Republicans a veto-proof majority and ammunition to really pressure the Democratic-controlled Senate to take up the measure.
But senior Democratic aides said that might have been possible before Thursday. That’s when Obama took action on his own, met with reporters to talk about it, and dispatched his Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, to Captiol Hill to meet with Democratic lawmakers.
One senior Democratic House aide described the mood of the caucus between Wednesday and Thursday as “night and day.” Other aides echoed that sentiment.
In addition to announcing his plan to try to repair the damage done under Obamacare, the President’s Q&A was as much about trying to provide political cover for Democrats in tough reelection bids next year.
Some have been targeted by the Republican Party’s campaign machine. Almost all of the Democratic defectors fall into that category. Freshman Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego of Texas tried to play down his vote as a rebuke of the President.
“For me personally, it was an issue of giving some people some time to transition to do things in an orderly way. There’s clearly some issues that we’d like to fix and make better,” he said.
Rep. Ron Barber, another Democrat who faces a tough campaign next year in Arizona, also rejected the notion that a vote for the Republican bill would help undermine the entire Obamacare law.
“I think any fix that we can make, particularly when a problem arises, is good for the people back home. And look, the truth of the matter is: I’m accountable to the people who sent me here,” Barber said.
“I respect our leadership on both sides of the aisle, but the leadership didn’t elect me; my constituents did. And I’m going to make sure I listen to them, and do what I can to support them when they have problems and concerns, and that’s what I’m doing in this case,” he added.
Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia told CNN on Thursday he was undecided on how he would vote but ultimately decided to vote against the GOP plan after he was briefed on the President’s fix.
“The Upton bill did nothing to address the situation in which some individuals have had their coverage canceled by their insurance provider,” Connolly said. “We cannot allow Americans to be subjected to capricious cancellations, lifetime limits on their coverage, no coverage or unaffordable coverage because of pre-existing conditions and higher premiums based on gender for the same basic coverage.”
The legislation proposed by Rep. Fred Upton would extend for a year those policies that were set to be canceled, and would allow anyone to purchase them. They are for the most part cheaper but they don’t meet coverage demands spelled out under the Affordable Care Act.
After the President’s news conference on Thursday during which he said he “fumbled” the Affordable Care Act’s launch, he immediately resumed his public relations tour touting the measure – his signature domestic policy achievement.
“We’re not going to gut the law. We’re going to fix what needs to be fixed,” Obama said in Cleveland.