The path forward for the Democrats
Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday.
In her prepared testimony, which has already been released to the media, she acknowledges the problems with the HealthCare.gov website and pledges to work hard to fix it, but realizes that the experience “has been frustrating for many Americans.”
“Frustrating” is putting it lightly. And there has been a lot of spilled ink about that frustration, a legitimate cause, but not one that I will address here. What I am concerned with here is what the Democrats must do now.
The challenge for Democrats is very different than the one for Republicans.
For Republicans, the key issue is trying to undermine the credibility of ObamaCare, the President and the contractors who built the obviously faulty ObamaCare website.
But for Democrats the challenge is that they need to find out not what went wrong, but how to make it right.
Put another way, what the Democratic Party and the administration needs to do is to find out what the practical steps are that need to be taken to fix the website and to make sure that the maximum number of Americans who have individual insurance are able to keep policies that are either identical or substantially similar in benefits and cost to the ones they have now.
Moreover, the Democrats need to find out from Secretary Sebelius what can be done to minimize the number of people who have been canceled and are seeing an increase in premiums and to understand what the specific steps that are being taken so that the system itself works as advertised.
To be sure, the Democrats can’t and need not be lapdogs for the administration – that would be a mistake substantively and politically. And already ten Democrat Senators, led by New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen, have taken the important step of seeking a year long delay in the implementation of the individual mandate and a delay in penalties for those who, for whatever reason, failed to sign up.
It follows that the answer for Democrats is to try to be constructive and thoughtful in finding ways to make ObamaCare do what it was supposed to do: provide affordable coverage to the approximately 45 million or more Americans without healthcare, to make sure that people can in fact keep their coverage and to ensure that the website itself will be fully operational within the five weeks that the president has promised.
This is a difficult position for the Democratic Party because with the administration’s credibility at home, and certainly overseas with the NSA scandal, it is a time where President Obama’s own influence has started to recede.
With polls now showing the Democrats leading in the generic vote because of the disastrous role that the Republicans have played in the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis, the Democrats do have a clear chance to salvage their position.
That said, they – and specifically Secretary Sebelius – will only be able to do this if they come up with credible answers to the questions that I’ve just raised.