Democrats look jittery

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 2:35 PM

Greg Sargent, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The House is expected to vote Friday on a proposal championed by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., that would give insurance companies the option of continuing all existing health plans for a year. The White House points out that this “fix” would badly undermine the Affordable Care Act.

Democratic leadership aides have predicted that some House Democrats will vote for the plan. CNN’s Dana Bash stirred chatter Tuesday when she tweeted that “lots” of House Democrats would vote for it if the White House has not put forth its own fix by week’s end.

House Democratic leaders are privately warning members that a vote for any anti-Obamacare legislation could alienate big donors heading into 2014, someone familiar with internal discussions told me. I’m also told that Democratic leaders are warning lawmakers that the Upton plan would essentially preserve the worst aspects of the dysfunctional individual-insurance market.

Bill Clinton’s comments Tuesday that “the president should honor the commitment” made to people who want to keep their insurance, “even if it takes a change in the law,” are not helping Democrats. It sounded like Clinton was trying to echo President Obama’s comments last week that such a fix is forthcoming, but he made a hash of it.

Any House bill to undermine Obamacare would be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Some Democrats up for reelection in 2014 are pressing efforts to minimize the political fallout of Obamacare problems, such as Sen. Mary Landrieu, La., with a bill to allow people to keep their insurance and Sen. Kay Hagan, N.C., and her call for a “probe” into what has gone wrong with the law. Republicans point to these proposals as proof that Democrats are running from the law.

Ultimately, what will really matter is whether the policy works over the long haul. But jittery Democrats are not in a big-picture mood, and the new Quinnipiac University poll, finding Obama at his lowest approval rating ever, is not going to make them any more inclined to take the long view.

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