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Senate Democrats push for long-term ObamaCare website CEO

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A man looks over ObamaCare signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York on October 2, 2013. ((Reuters))

A group of Democratic lawmakers is calling on the Obama administration to appoint a chief executive officer to oversee technical repairs of HealthCare.gov after the departure of management consultant Jeffrey Zients at the end of the year.  

The seven senators, led by Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, said the position should report directly to President Obama and "should be empowered with the authority to ensure that healthcare.gov is fixed quickly, completely, and permanently." 

"The law’s success is inextricably tied to the confidence of the American people. Sustaining the steady management focus that this position has already brought to the project would go a long way toward earning back the trust jeopardized by last month’s deeply flawed rollout," the senators wrote. 

The letter was also signed by Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Christopher A. Coons, D-Del.; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; Mark Udall, D-Colo.; and Tim Kaine, D-Va.  

Zients, who was enlisted by the White House to fix the website in late October, is departing to become director of the National Economic Council in January. The lawmakers praised his selection and urged the administration to quickly appoint a replacement. 

The senators said the duration of the new position should be extended until after next year's open enrollment period ends in January 2015. 

The Obama administration has said scheduled repairs should allow the site to be ready to handle 50,000 simultaneous users by Nov. 30, close to the level first envisioned. That translates to about 800,000 visits a day.

The HealthCare.gov website serving 36 states froze up the very day it launched, and several states running their own sites have also experienced technology troubles. Fewer than 27,000 people were able to sign up during October in the federally-administered states, and another 79,000 in state-run programs.

The Obama administration said Tuesday it would postpone the launch of HealthCare.gov enrollment tools in Spanish in order to allow Hispanic groups to give their thoughts on how the tools are working after the Nov. 30 deadline.

As recently as last week, the administration had told journalists the Spanish sign-up tools would be ready by the end of November. Hispanic groups had heard the same thing.

Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters told The Associated Press that the administration plans a quiet launch of the Spanish enrollment tools in early December without much advertising. 

As recently as last week, the administration had told journalists the Spanish sign-up tools would be ready by the end of November. Hispanic groups had heard the same thing. 

"We think it's important to engage with key stakeholders and organizations in this process and get their feedback," Peters, the HHS spokeswoman, said. After the Spanish enrollment tools launch and Hispanic groups provide feedback, "We will ramp up our promotional efforts to drive Spanish speakers to CuidadoDeSalud.gov," the Spanish version of HealthCare.gov. 

Enrollment in the new health insurance marketplace is open until March 31. People who sign up by Dec. 23 can get coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.