Updated 4:17 p.m. ET, 11/14/2013
Washington (CNN) – The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat said President Barack Obama has put forward a sufficient measure administratively for addressing canceled health plans under Obamacare, adding that Congress didn’t have to act.
“There is no need for a legislative fix for this issue. Instead, Congress should continue to work with the administration to improve the implementation of the law and redouble our efforts highlighting and explaining what this historic law will mean for 40 million Americans without insurance,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.
Although Senate Democratic leaders know there is a desire among many rank-and-file members of their caucus to pursue legislation to help people losing coverage, they intend to take what one Democratic aide called a “wait and see approach” for now.
“There is clearly a desire to do something, but also a willingness to see how this [presidential announcement] plays out,” said the leadership aide.
With many Americans holding a certain type of individual insurance now receiving cancellation notices, Obama said Thursday his administration wants insurers to extend existing coverage for a year.
In selling the Affordable Care Act to the public, Obama said previously that people who liked their plans could keep them under new rules. That turned out to be inaccurate and Obama has apologized.
But cancellations have energized Republicans, who did not support the law and hold up the issue as a primary reason why the country should reject the sweeping health care overall. They see it as a potent campaign issue ahead of next year's midterms, especially in races against politically vulnerable Democrats.
Obama said on Thursday there is "no doubt" that the fumbled rollout of the Affordable Care Act has put a "burden on Democrats" whether they are running for reelection or not.
White House officials made clear to Democratic Senators in a private lunch meeting on Thursday that they would like time for Obama’s fix to take hold before the Senate takes up legislation, CNN was told.
Before that meeting, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, the chief Democratic sponsor of legislation in that chamber to permanently allow consumers to keep their health plans, released a statement saying she would move forward with the bill.
But at a press conference after the meeting, she was less insistent.
“The President's guidance was welcomed and well received. We still may have to fashion some legislation and we are going to continue to work in that regard,” said Landrieu, who is up for re-election next year in a competitive race.
Other Senate Democrats facing voters in 2014, like Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Jeanne Sheehan of New Hampshire, said they still want the Senate to act.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, a co-sponsor of Landrieu’s proposal, who is also facing voters in the midterms, told reporters he still wants legislation. But he is also willing to see if insurance companies are able to comply with the President’s new directive.
Senior Democratic sources admit to CNN that a big part of what is driving the desire for a vote is that congressional Democrats don't want to sit on the sidelines as the President makes changes to the law.
Instead, they want to be able to tell voters at home they are part of the solution.
Congressional Democratic sources privately admit another factor is that Americans have lost faith and trust in Obama, so Democrats worried about their fate want to stand on their own.
Beyond the politics, some Democrats say they don't think the substance of what he announced goes far enough in allowing people to keep health plans.
First, Obama's proposal would allow consumers to only keep cancelled plans for a year. But Landrieu and Hagan want people to have the ability to keep them indefinitely.
Second, Obama is calling on insurance companies to reinstate cancelled policies but not forcing them to do so. Landrieu's legislation would make it mandatory.
Although Democratic leaders understand the politics of the situation, there is concern that forcing insurance companies to allow people to permanently keep cancelled plans would undermine the entire health care law, because it would discourage young and healthy people with flimsy plans from going into the system.
Those younger, healthier people are needed to offset higher cost consumers, like the sick and elderly.
Separately, the House is set to vote Friday on a Republican plan that would also allow Americans to keep their insurance plans.
House Democrats also want to offer an alternative to keep them from having to vote for the GOP measure, which Obama opposes.