(CNN) - Top Obama administration officials involved in the troubled roll out of the Obamacare website got an earful from Senate Democrats in a closed meeting on Thursday.
“There is a lot of frustration,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, as she left the session in the Capitol with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, and former acting White House Budget Office Director Jeff Zients, who is spearheading the administration’s response to the problems.
The three met with Democrats to answer questions, try to ease concerns about the troubled online launch, and assure them a fix is in the works.
There were “lots of tough questions” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, who said many of the concerns raised were “allayed” by the trio from the administration.
“We were really in the weeds on the operation of the website. There was some venting but probably less than you expect. Most members really wanted to know when it will be up and running, what the alternatives are and how their constituents are going to get that information,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut.
“There’s probably been a lot of private venting between members of the Senate and the administration. This was really about the steps they’re taking to make the site better,” he said.
Feinstein added, “They have evolved a method of proceeding that is to keep the site up and work on it that they believe is most effective in getting the problems ironed out as opposed to shutting it down to iron it out. We’ll see.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, said he was deeply frustrated.
“I don’t think there is confidence by anyone in the room. This is more of a show-me moment. We were all confident the system would be up and operating October 1 and now we’re not confident until it’s real,” Merkley said.
Up for re-election, Merkley, said he wants the time-frame extended for when people can sign up for health insurance without being penalized.
“If there is this kind of delay on the front end, I’m certainly advocating extending the window on the back end,” he said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, appeared sympathetic to the administration’s efforts to fix the problems.
“They’re working hard. They recognize the problems. They’re putting a lot of resources into it,” he said.
As he left, McDonough wouldn’t answer questions about the frustrated senators.
“It was a really good meeting,” he said several times without elaborating.