Vulnerable Democrats start pushing for Obamacare delay


White House still confident of current enrollment deadlines

Susan Davis

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON A rising tide of Democrats has begun voicing support for easing the deadlines and penalties of the Affordable Care Act, showing the first cracks in party unity against GOP oppo­sition to the health care law.

Senate Democrats in conserva­tive or competitive states are lin­ing up behind proposals to delay Obamacare, citing problems with the glitch-plagued website.

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., an­nounced Thursday she supports delaying the enrollment period for two months and waiving the tax penalty for people who fail to enroll for the same period of time. The delay would “make up for time that is being lost” while the website is malfunctioning, she said in a statement.

Hagan’s statement came the same day the House held its first hearing into flaws in the website, and Julie Bataille, a spokeswom­an for the agency managing the site, told reporters, “The system just wasn’t tested enough.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., proposed delay­ing the enrollment peri­od, citing problems with HealthCare.gov.

Her plan was quickly endorsed by Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mary Lan­drieu of Louisiana.

All five Democrats face competitive 2014 re­election races.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he is drafting a plan to delay for one year the requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance.

A prominent 2014 Senate Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn in Georgia, on Thursday endorsed delaying the require­ment for individuals to buy insurance.

Growing support for imple­mentation delays is a clear signal that Democrats “absolutely” see political vulnerabilities in next year’s midterm elections, said Jennifer Duffy, an elec­tions analyst for the non-partisan Cook Polit­ical Report .

Senate Majority Lead­er Harry Reid, D-Nev., dismissed suggestions that the health care law is a potential political li­ability. “I think quite the contrary. I think it’s a great asset for Demo­­crats,” he told Nevada Public Radio in an interview Thursday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated Thursday that the White House is confident there is enough time to address the online enrollment problems for individuals to meet the March 31 deadline. http://rochesterdemocrat.ny.newsmemory.com

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