The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

October 26, 2013

GOP hopes Obama heath care woes have staying power

WASHINGTON — For nearly five years, Republicans have struggled to make a scandal stick to President Barack Obama's White House. One by one, the controversies — with shorthand names such as Solyndra, Benghazi, and Fast and Furious — hit a fever pitch, then faded away.

But some Republicans see the disastrous rollout of Obama's health law as a problem with the kind of staying power they have sought.

The health care failures are tangible for millions of Americans and can be experienced by anyone with Internet access. The law itself is more closely associated with Obama personally and long has been unpopular with the majority of the American people.

The longer the technical problems persist, the more likely they are to affect the delicate balance of enrollees needed in the insurance marketplace in order to keep costs down.

"There's no question the issue has legs, in part because it affects so many Americans very directly and in part because the glitches with the website are simply one of many fundamental problems with this law," GOP pollster Whit Ayres said.

The cascade of computer problems began Oct. 1, when sign-ups opened for the marketplaces at the center of the law. Administration officials blamed the problems on high volume, but have since acknowledged more systemic issues with HealthCare.gov.

White House officials contend the website is just one piece of the broader law offering an array of benefits. They say that when the online issues are fixed — the latest estimate is the site will be working normally for most users by the end of November — few people will remember the problems that have marred the opening weeks of the six-month enrollment window.

"It says a lot about Republicans that their focus here is not on helping Americans get insured, but on making political hay of this mess," said Dan Pfeiffer, Obama's senior adviser.

There's another mess the White House is dealing with that could have long-lasting implications, too: U.S. government spying on foreign leaders. The scope of the surveillance programs was first made public in June and the revelations keep coming. The latest concern the alleged monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone communications.

But unlike with the health law, many Republicans support the government surveillance policies, making it more difficult for the party to create a political furor over the revelations.

For GOP lawmakers, the White House's stumbles on the Affordable Care Act have come at an optimal time, just one week after their strategy to shut down the government in exchange for concessions on health care imploded.

The health care debacle has overshadowed some of the Republican missteps and the GOP appears more than happy to keep the spotlight where it is.

Republicans have scheduled a series of congressional hearings on the program's shortcomings, and have called for officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, to be fired. She is set to testify this coming week before a House committee.

Kevin Madden, a GOP strategist, said Republicans should be wary of overreach, and he urged the party to "focus on the basics" in the hearings. If they do, he said, "they can really align themselves with a lot of public anxiety about what's wrong with Washington."

Anxiety about the website's problems also appears to be on the rise among members of the president's own party, a worrisome sign for the White House.

Ten Democratic senators urged Sebelius in a letter to extend the insurance enrollment window beyond the March 31 deadline; White House officials say they don't believe that will be necessary. Also, Democratic leaders have been critical about the seeming lack of preparedness for the sign-up rollout.

"As far as I'm concerned there is no excuse for that," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told Las Vegas radio station KNPR. "I think the administration should have known how difficult it was going to be to have 35 million or 40 million people to suddenly hook up to a place to go on the Internet."

The health care law has been unpopular with large swaths of the American public ever since Obama signed it into law in 2010. A CBS News survey taken last week found that 43 percent of Americans approve of the law, compared with 35 percent in May.

Crisis management expert Eric Dezenhall said that if the White House wants to prevent the current troubles from being a long-term problem, it will have to do some basic damage control.

"There has to be a component of hand-holding, clarity and bedside manner with the early stages of Obamacare," he said.

The White House appeared to start taking a page from that playbook this past week.

On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began holding daily briefings to address technical problems with the website, though the many of the issues still remain shrouded from the public.

Republicans are turning to a familiar tactic, congressional hearings. It's the same tactic they took as they looked to connect Obama to wrongdoing in the deaths of Americans in Benghazi, Libya, the bankruptcy of the solar energy company Solyndra, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' failed gun-smuggling sting operation known as "Fast and Furious," and a number of other problems that have arisen since the president took office.

"This is more than a website problem. We are also concerned about what happens next," GOP Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, chairman of the House committee that will hear from Sebelius on Wednesday, said in the Republicans' weekly radio and Internet address.

Dezenhall said that while investigations may help Republicans do some damage to the health care law, "there's a difference between roughing up your enemy and defeating them."

"They can certainly put some points on the board but I don't see a great Republican coup anytime soon," he said.

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • High court nixes $3.4M award to child porn victim

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view their images online, throwing out a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet. Two dissenting justices said Congress should change the law to benefit victims.

    April 24, 2014

  • First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

    To help veterans leaving the military as it downsizes, the government on Wednesday started a one-stop job-shopping website for them to create resumes, connect with employers and become part of a database for companies to mine.

    April 23, 2014

  • US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release — and expecting thousands to take up the offer. It's an effort to deal with high costs and overcrowding in prisons, and also a matter of fairness, the government says.

    April 23, 2014

  • Missouri executes inmate for 1993 farm slaying

    Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday only a few miles from the farm where prosecutors say he orchestrated the 1993 killing of a couple whose cows he wanted to steal.

    April 23, 2014

  • Pro-Russian insurgents hold US journalist captive

    Pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine admitted on Wednesday that they are holding an American journalist, saying he was suspected of unspecified "bad activities."

    April 23, 2014

  • Beautiful Bulldogs.jpg Lucey is tops in Iowa's 'Beautiful Bulldog' event

    Lucey is a slobbering 18-month-old pooch whose human family dreams of making her a therapy dog.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sherpas leave Everest; some expeditions nix climbs

    Sherpa guides packed up their tents and left Mount Everest's base camp Wednesday in an unprecedented walkout to honor 16 of their colleagues who were killed last week in the deadliest avalanche ever recorded on the mountain, climbers said.

    April 23, 2014

  • FBI investigates suspected serial child molester

    The FBI asked for the public's help Tuesday to identify at least 90 potential victims of a suspected child predator who worked at 10 American and other international schools abroad for more than four decades before committing suicide last month in Minnesota.

    April 22, 2014

  • Australia signals deeper search for Malaysian jet

    Australia may use more powerful sonar equipment that can delve deeper beneath the Indian Ocean in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet as the prime minister said Wednesday that failure to find any clue in the most likely crash site would not spell the end of the search.

    April 22, 2014

  • Tech boom presents new wrinkles for Wrigley Field

    During a recent game at Wrigley Field, John Weber was using a pencil and scorecard to expertly track the game between his hometown Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 86-year-old retired transit worker figures he is an increasingly rare kind of baseball fan.

    April 22, 2014

More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium