""I don't think there's confidence by anyone in the room," said Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat up for re-election next year, as he emerged from the closed-door meeting in the Capitol. "This is more a show-me moment. We were all confident that the system was going to be up and operating on Oct 1. And now we're not confident until it's real."
The anxious include not only senators and House members facing hotly contested races but those whose seats are considered safe, as well as lawmakers in states with Republican governors who have done nothing to promote the health care law and in states with Democratic governors who have created state-run websites and made every effort to sign up the uninsured.
"It's not working well," said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, whose state was hailed by Mr. Obama as a model for the Affordable Care Act.
Many Democrats say the Obama administration must extend the period to enroll in new plans, given the continuing problems with website access.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and 10 other Democrats have signed or endorsed a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, pleading for more time. Ms. Shaheen told the administration officials on Thursday that she had a hard time taking them at their word because they had previously assured that the rollout was going to work.
Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, has teamed with Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, to draft legislation delaying until 2015 the imposition of penalties on those who fail to buy health insurance. In an interview, Mr. Manchin said the problems went well beyond the potential penalties, and included individual insurance plans being canceled for failing to meet the law's coverage requirements and a lack of health care choices in some parts of the country.
"Everybody's upset about the computer; you can't get on," he said. "They'll get through that. They better be worried about having a product at the end and being able to have adjustments to the product that really work." He continued: "Affordable health care means trying to get more people insurance that had no insurance. Making people who had insurance buy a different product that costs more for less coverage? You can't go home and defend that."
The politics of the rollout are coming into clearer focus by the day. Democrats emerged from the government shutdown Oct. 16 sure that they would be the political beneficiaries of a Republican brand that took a beating from voters tired of the brinkmanship. But the problems with the website are sending Democratic reputations plunging along with those of their adversaries."
The Democrats thought that ObamaCare was behind them. They expected a successful launch and a gradual acceptance of the plan. However, it's back to the grind, as Chris Stirewalt posted this morning. It's back to town hall meetings and very unfriendly questions about a law that they didn't read!
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