Senate Democrats vent at White House officials over Obamacare roll out
October 31st, 2013
05:18 PM ET
1 year ago

Senate Democrats vent at White House officials over Obamacare roll out

(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.


Filed under: Health care • Obamacare • Senate Democrats • White House
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    To ALL freakin’ democrats in the senate and house.
    Stand down!!!
    If there's one thing the teaklans do well is stand together. Take these 12 days and come back to help the country against the domestic terrorists called repugs.

    October 31, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  2. The HAM

    Forbes re-released their estimates of 93 Million losing their insurance...

    Explains why there are some nervous private meetings going on... especially with mid terms next year.

    October 31, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  3. A True Conservative

    So the Dems hold a closed meeting....so much for transparency......

    October 31, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  4. Ol' Yeller

    Another story on the Obamacare rollout... My, my, my.... this left wing liberal media outlet sure isn't doing a very good job, now is it?

    October 31, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  5. Christina

    As the great philosopher/historian Will Durant said, "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it is destroyed from within." The Republicans are doing their best to destroy the inner workings of the government, which is just what our enemies want.

    October 31, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  6. Leschiguy

    Well, GOP, forget about pressuring Obama to fire Sebelius. If he did, he could not get any replacement confirmed, at a time when the department badly needs leadership.

    October 31, 2013 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  7. David

    Why don't we just let the south secede? It's what they want and then they can do things their own way. And then the rest of us won't be held hostage to this kind of stuff. We'll still be the strongest of allies.

    I think Licoln did the US a disserivce by holding the union together.

    October 31, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  8. timverba

    I do not have sympathy for anyone in Congress. If they had spent more time overseeing the functions of government they would not be in the dark all the time. Committee hearings are always after the fact investigations instead of plenary sessions for departments. I cannot believe that not one member in Congress asked to be a part of a pilot program, or demand that a staff member participate in testing the website before rollout.

    October 31, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  9. BO

    Elections have consequences.

    November 1, 2013 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  10. Brad

    Obama MUST either appoint a competent point person, or better yet, appoint a more savvy chief of staff that can work the Hill and Industry at the same time, along with a new Press Secretary. If he could get Robert Gibbs back, that would solve a lot of the wandering aimlessly about that is so blatant right now.

    November 1, 2013 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  11. skytag

    There were “lots of tough questions” said Sen. Chuck Schumer

    "Tough question" is code for questions for which there are no good answers. I have some tough questions for Democrats in Congress:

    – Why didn't you even seriously consider single-payer?

    – Why didn't you give us health care reform that would simplify our system and reduce administrative costs?

    – Given that you went with a system based on private health insurance, why didn't you require it to be nonprofit like it is in other countries that base universal health care systems on private insurance, such as Switzerland?

    – Given that you went with a system based on private health insurance, why didn't you design a mandate that's effective instead of the joke the current mandate is?

    – Why didn't you do your homework?

    November 1, 2013 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  12. meat

    Why do Democrat meetings always have to be CLOSED. Transparency, yeah right.

    November 1, 2013 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  13. Gig 'em

    Sorry Joe Biden. You should have gotten out while the getting was good. Now Barack will continue to drag you down the muddy road. But you know the saying, "You sleep with dogs, you get up with the fleas." :-)

    November 1, 2013 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  14. Marvin

    They should be upset. They were lied to, just like the Administration lied to the American people, except they have to run for re-election. It isn't over yet. The next to go is the individual policies that do meet ACA specs (during 2014 they all get cancelled). Then about 98 million small business plans. Then the large corporate plans. Then government employee plans. Grandfather? No, they all had some change since 2010 somewhere. Sorry.

    November 1, 2013 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  15. Emile Mervin

    I received a letter from my insurance carrier that as of November 30, it is no longer recognizing my personal doctor of two decades. I don't know what is actually happening with the website, which is taking up an awful amount of time and attention, but someone needs to keep assuring folks that getting dumped is not the end of the road.

    November 1, 2013 03:42 am at 3:42 am |
  16. James Madison

    Democrats shut down the government to prevent giving average joe the same one year delay Obama's cronies received.

    What comedy will be coming. Can't wait to see the spin.

    November 1, 2013 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  17. hoapres

    It just might be that everybody is figuring out that ObamaCare isn't going to work.

    November 1, 2013 04:48 am at 4:48 am |
  18. Hooper

    Here's something you can vent at, Mr.and Mrs. republican. It's been noticed that many of your (so called followers), your minions are incapable of the meager process of reading. Your people seem to go off on a rant at the very first words they look at, not the entire sentence or paragraph. This is evident in every facet of your lives. Well here's a point for you to ponder. I'd rather be called a liberal any day, than a repulsive conservative with limited intelligence.

    November 1, 2013 07:39 am at 7:39 am |