Obama, Biden meet with Senate Democrats
November 6th, 2013
03:38 PM ET
9 months ago

Obama, Biden meet with Senate Democrats

Updated 6:08 p.m. ET, 11/6/2013

Washington (CNN) - A group of 15 Senate Democrats–all up for re-election in a year–met with President Barack Obama Wednesday to get an update on the beleaguered website where Americans are supposed to be able to register for exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act.

The Democrats, along with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Michael Bennet, met with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to discuss progress made to HealthCare.gov, a White House official said, adding that security and privacy concerns were also raised during the session.

Democrats on Capitol Hill, many who vocally supported the Affordable Care Act during the lead-up to its passage in 2010, have grown increasing wary of the rollout of Obama's signature legislation, particularly as technical concerns with the website have prevented Americans whose insurance plans are canceled from enrolling online.

"I urged the president again to extend the enrollment period to give consumers enough time to make an informed decision about their family's health insurance options," Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado said after the meeting. "I also told the president that, for the Affordable Care Act to succeed, consumers need to be confident their personal information is secure."

Some of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in 2014 – including Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina – attended Wednesday's meeting. Bennet, who is not up for re-election until 2016, departed the White House Wednesday alongside Obama ahead of the president's trip to Dallas.

A congressional source with knowledge of a meeting between Obama and the group of Democratic Senators told CNN concerns about the impact of Obamacare on next year's mid-term elections were a part of the reason for the gathering at the White House.

"There would not have been this meeting if you didn't have this group of Senators up in 2014," the Democratic staffer with knowledge of the meeting told CNN.

The gathering was held as White House officials were pushing back on the notion that Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe nearly lost his race for governor due to voter complaints about Obamacare.

The staffer told CNN the meeting between the Senators and the President was not contentious or tense. It was pretty civil, the congressional source said, focusing on technical issues of the rollout and concerns expressed by constituents.

One aide to a senator in the White House meeting told CNN his office had been pressing for a meeting with administration officials - not specifically with the President - for a while because the staff was frustrated after reading details in the press about the administration’s efforts to fix the website but not seeing those actions happening on the ground.

"We wanted to get to the bottom of it,” the aide said.

While there was universal agreement among those in the meeting about the need to get the website fixed, according to the aide, there was also concern by the senators about other problems that need to be worked on–ranging from security to cancellations.

"Nobody in the room, including the president, thought this rollout has gone well. I've been keeping a record of the concerns and frustrations New Mexicans have expressed to me personally and to my office, and I discussed that with the president," Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico said, adding that he wanted to ensure that the enrollment deadline was flexible.

Pryor in a statement said he told the president to "hold the individuals in charge accountable for these mistakes. I won't let up until these problems are fixed."

Begich, who's facing one of the toughest re-election battles of 2014, sent out a news release later Wednesday, saying he "demanded" improvements to the health care rollout.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable in this day and age that the administration can’t deliver on the promises it made to all Americans because of technical problems with a website,” Begich said in the statement. “Alaskans should be appreciating the critical benefits of the Affordable Care Act but there is an understandable crisis in confidence because the administration has yet to get it off the ground.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, speaking aboard Air Force One Wednesday, said he “believed” the White House initiated the meeting with Senators, and added the president wasn’t worried that Obamacare could become a political liability for Democrats up for re-election in 2014.

“He’s not concerned about the politics of it,” Carney said. “He obviously campaigned on it in 2008. He fought hard to get the legislation passed in 2010.”

“The president believes that delivering of access to affordable and quality care is policy that makes good politics.”

While in Texas Obama will attend an event promoting Obamacare, as well as attend fundraisers for Senate Democrats. The fundraisers are hosted by lawyers Russell Budd and Peter Kraus, and tickets range in price from $15,000 to $32,000.

Even as Obama was seeking to reassure Senate Democrats that the Obamacare technical problems would be resolved well ahead of their re-election fights, White House advisers were taking to Twitter to push back on the notion that Tuesday’s tighter-than-expected result in Virginia’s gubernatorial race came down to dissatisfaction with the health law.

“Cucinelli's profile was based on defeating O'care; if he cldnt get big bounce out of recent troubles; hard to see GOP strategy working in 14,” Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s senior adviser, wrote.

- CNN’s Kevin Bohn and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2014 • Joe Biden • President Obama • Senate
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Data Driven

    Ah. The usual gutless Democrats.

    Stories like these remind me why I left the party 13 years ago.

    November 6, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. just saying

    ahhh... a meeting of the big bunch of liars that lied to every american citizen in order to force their disaster down our throats. shouldn't they all be investigated as a criminal conspiracy at this point? if they were a company the justice dept. and fbi would be breaking down the doors and hauling them and their records off for prosecution.

    instead, it will be up to the american people to extract juctice in 2014 & 2016. and we will.

    November 6, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  3. You Can Keep Your Plan If You Want

    I have the feeling that the senators are going to do all of the talking and Obama will be doing all of the listening. Obama has hung these people out to dry with the Obamacare fiasco. Either Obama delays the implementation of the ACA or he is going to have a full scale revolt from the Democrats on his hands.

    November 6, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    The insurance industry doesn't even want this extended or lengthened, etc. It would grossly distort their actuarial calculations and force them to increase premiums to cover unknowns introduced into the calculations. sure, the 80/20 rule that the MSM so deftly avoids ever mentioning would likely return the extra premium money in the long run, but it's a terrible freekin idea and these spineless coward Dems demanding this extension to cover their own re-elections need to cut the crap. Grow up and grow a pair, you freekin morons. Stop prioritizing your re-election dreams over getting things right. Extension of the enrollment period is a terrible, damaging and unnecessary step.

    November 6, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    ""I also told the president that, for the Affordable Care Act to succeed, consumers need to be confident their personal information is secure.""

    Well, someone needs to explain to Mr. Colorado Pandering Coward that for the ACA to succeed, the idea of extending the enrollment period needs to be thrown in the garbage because doing so would severely damage it WHICH IS WHY THE GOP/TEATROLLS HAVE BEEN DEMANDING IT ALL ALONG. Perhaps the CEOs of every major insurance company can explain it to him, since they vehemently oppose it as well for reasons that are in the best interests of both the consumers and the companies. Any consumer who promotes the idea is literally arguing against their best interests because it would cause a sharp spike in premiums...and the only reason to argue in such a manner is because you think you see an opportunity to break the ACA and create more trouble, not because you've got any honest concerns about making it successful.

    November 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "instead, it will be up to the american people to extract juctice in 2014 & 2016. and we will."

    I'll be sure to alert President Romney to the good news.

    November 6, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  7. Stuffit

    Us TEAtrolls just wonder if he lies to them also and do they believe home like the dope crazed welfare fraid that make up the democrat liberals.

    November 6, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    "instead, it will be up to the american people to extract juctice in 2014 & 2016. and we will."

    Yeah. Whatever.

    November 6, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Data Driven

    Ah. The usual gutless Democrats.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Glad to see that it is not just me, although I was never a card carrying member.
    Gutless.
    No truer words have been spoken.

    November 6, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  10. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "instead, it will be up to the american people to extract juctice in 2014 & 2016. and we will."
    -------------------------------------------------
    We most certainly will. We started last night.
    Spray goodnight Gracie.

    November 6, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  11. tom l

    Ah. The usual gutless Democrats.

    Stories like these remind me why I left the party 13 years ago.

    Ummmmm. I'm totally confused. Are you another "moderate" like Lynda and DMFO claim to be?

    November 6, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  12. Democrat Party -- An Ongoing Criminal Enterprise

    The biggest assembly of criminals since the Valentine's Day Massacre. Arrest, prosecute, convict and incarcerate the whole lot of them.

    November 6, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |