January 28th, 2014
07:00 PM ET
10 months ago

Reid will allow vote on Democratic-backed Obamacare changes

Washington (CNN) – In a nod to vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2014, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that he will allow the Senate to vote on some Democratic proposals to change Obamacare.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash, Reid said he is meeting with Democrats who have suggestions about altering Obamacare and hopes to bring their changes to the Senate floor for a vote.

“If there are things we can do to improve the bill, we should do it,” Reid told Bash during an interview in his office. “There’s a group of senators, 2014ers we call them, who are coming up with different proposals. I'm meeting with them some this week and individually.”

Reid would not specify certain changes he would make, telling Bash that while there are “five or six really substantive proposals,” one suggestion is to “lump them all together.”

“I don't think that would be a best way to do it,” said the majority leader. “I think the best way to do it would be to do them one at a time, and that's all we're working on now.”

Asked if he believed Republicans would go along with Democratic-proposed changes to Obamacare, Reid said, “Republicans vote against everything. Of course they would vote against it.”

Since its passage in 2010, President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care law has been a hot button political issue that has helped deepen the divisions between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. The program’s rollout has been fraught with technical glitches and security questions, but Democrats – like Reid – contend that things are getting better.

In the Senate, some Democrats, like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have proposed delaying the individual mandate portion of the plan for a year.

Other Democrats, like Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Begich of Alaska, have come out in favor of extending the plan’s open enrollment period. Not coincidentally, these four Democrats from states that Obama lost in his 2012 presidential bid have steep climbs towards re-election this November.

But not all Democrats want to change the law, according to Reid, who said he recently met with a Democratic lawmaker who wants to “represent a group of Democratic senators” who hope to spearhead an effort to talk up the plan and herald some of the changes the law has already made.

Republicans remain ardently opposed to the law and have pledged to make Obamacare a central part of their 2014 pitch, with almost all looking to tie any Democrat running to Obama and the law.

Reid, quite expectedly, doesn’t think that plan will work and said he thinks “without any doubt” that Democrats will maintain their majority in the Senate.

“We have quality candidates, really good candidates. And we have candidates with such good names, Landrieu, Pryor, Hagan, Shaheen,” Reid said, noting four vulnerable Democrats. “We're going to do just fine.”

As for the balance of power in the Senate this election year, Reid said he is “comfortable where we are” and predicted Republicans will not win the six seats they need to take control.

But if Republicans do win back the Senate, will he remain as Senate Minority Leader?

Reid said he doesn’t do hypotheticals.

“I don't contemplate losing the majority,” he said.

But in order to win, Reid said these vulnerable Democrats should buck what some political experts have said and not run away from the President, despite the fact he is unpopular in their respective states.

During the interview, the Majority Leader revealed that he will go to the White House next week to meet with the President and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado – the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee – about how to best use the President in 2014.

"Barack Obama is personally a very popular guy. And people love this man. They love his family," Reid told Bash. "Of course, with what the Republicans have been doing, trying to denigrate him with what's happened with the rollout of Obamacare, but things, even this week, his numbers are going up again."

"So you would encourage some of your most vulnerable Senate Democratic candidates to invite President Obama to appear with them," Bash asked.

"Yes, and they will," Reid said.

Administration officials say the President he will use executive powers more aggressively to bypass a gridlocked Congress, starting with an executive order raising the minimum wage for new federal contractors.

House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday said that Obama will “run into a brick wall” if he uses executive power to bypass Congress.

“This idea that he's just going to go it alone, I have to remind him we do have a constitution,” Boehner said at an annual State of the Union day breakfast with reporters. “And the Congress writes the laws, and the President’s job is to execute the laws faithfully. And if he tries to ignore this he's going to run into a brick wall.”

Reid said just the opposite. In the interview, the Majority Leader said that idea came from Senate Democrats, who used a White House meeting with the President a few weeks ago to encourage him to use his executive power more frequently.

Reid later referred to that White House meeting as a “love fest” between the President and Senate Democrats.
“We're going to support the President doing that because the country has been brought to a standstill by the obstruction of the Republicans,” he said.

Among the issues Reid hopes Obama will use more executive power are raising the minimum wage, dealing with immigration issues and addressing climate change.

“The President, I think, has some leeway to do some things administratively,” Reid said. “And I'm confident that he will to help the environment, which has been denigrated as we speak.”

When it comes to the President’s relationships with Democrats in Congress, it’s not unusual to hear Democratic senators complaining about the lack of outreach from the White House even to members of his own party– and concern that has hurt his agenda.

Reid dismissed that saying it’s not easy for presidents to make people happy.

“Republicans complained about George Bush, number one,” Reid said. “And number two, as popular as Ronald Reagan was, people complained about him because he didn’t work long enough hours. He spent too much time at his California ranch.… It's hard to make everybody happy including the party that you’re representing.”


Filed under: 2014 • Harry Reid • President Obama
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Tampa Tim

    Manchin is opposed to ACA, because the coal industry likes to keep miners uninsured in order to promote black lung disease.

    January 28, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  2. Thomas

    Executive order !

    January 28, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  3. Truth Partner 12

    So much for that "reaching across the aisle" thing. Another lie.

    January 29, 2014 01:16 am at 1:16 am |