After failing to derail ObamaCare during the partial government shutdown, congressional Republicans have found new life in attacking President Obama’s signature health care law.
With Congress returning on Tuesday from the long holiday weekend, the battle shifts to a House Republican-backed bill that would allow Americans to keep their health plans.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee bill capitalizes on Obama’s apology last week for earlier mistakenly assuring the public that they could stay on their health insurance if they liked it.
A vote is scheduled for Friday and coincides with escalating attacks on the failed rollout last month of the ObamaCare website, which gave members in both chambers new lines of attack -- including the previously tricky strategy of trying to chip away at the law.
Although Democrats roundly opposed that approach during the shutdown stalemate, now some moderate Democrats have come around.
Republicans have attacked practically every aspect and person connected to the website failures -- from contractors who helped build the site to suggesting the site’s technical problems are just “the tip of the iceberg.”
The centerpiece of the attack has so far has been pressing Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius into testifying earlier this month before a House committee.
Energy committee Chairman Fred Upton now appears to have seized on the Obama apology asa way to garner Democratic support for chamber’s bill.
“Actions speak louder than words,” the Michigan Republican said. “If the president is serious about offering relief to Americans whose health plans are being canceled, then he should strongly support the Keep Your Health Plan Act. … The president ought to embrace the bipartisan call for legislative action.”
The Republican-controlled House has also proposed legislation to delay mandating that Americans get insurance, just as the president delayed the employer mandate, and to verify that low-income people getting federal subsidies to pay for the insurance indeed qualify for them.
Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts, who earlier this year sponsored a failed attempt to rework ObamaCare, recently told The Hill that his colleagues “regret” that decision -- evidence Republicans are moving away from their do-or-die approach to the law.
Pitts told the newspaper that fellow House Republicans appear to be “shifting toward targeted fixes, if you want to call it that.”
Republicans strategists insist that harping on ObamaCare straight through the 2016 presidential election cycle is a winning strategy -- pointing to the recent Virginia governor’s race in which Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli lost but managed to close a double-digit lead by hammering away at the law in the closing weeks of the campaign.
Some Democrats are also trying also trying to change the law -- particularly senators seeking re-election next year in conservative-leaning states.
Among them are Mark Begich, of Alaska, Mary Landrieu, of Louisiana, and Kay Hagan, of North Carolina, who are also facing conservative groups vowing to spend millions to show voters their early support for ObamaCare.
Landrieu,in fact, introduced a bill last week similar to the House one that would allow Americans to keep their existing health plans.
“When we passed the Affordable Care Act, we did so with the intention that if you liked your health plan, you could keep it,” she said. “A promise was made and this legislation will ensure that this promise is kept. I have said repeatedly that the … act isn't perfect, and I am willing to work with anyone who wants to improve it and implement it correctly.”