WASHINGTON — Top congressional Democrats on Sunday stood by President Obama and the flawed rollout of the government’s health-care website, expressing confidence the problems would be fixed and the issue would not drag down the party in next year’s mid-term elections.
“I don’t think you can tell what will happen next year, but I will tell you this – Democrats stand tall in support of the Affordable Care Act,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Pelosi downplayed the defection of 39 House Democrats on Friday who voted to help pass a Republican bill, opposed by the White House, to address the millions of people facing cancellation of their health insurance policies. The bill, which passed 261-157, would allow insurers to continue selling individual policies that do not meet new federal standards under the law.
The number of Democrats who defied Obama and House Democratic leaders on the vote was about the same as those who have joined with Republicans on other bills to alter the health-care law, Pelosi said. On one such vote in July, to delay the employer mandate in the law, 35 Democrats joined with Republicans.
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the assistant House Democratic leader, said many of his colleagues who voted for the Republican bill Friday did so to protect themselves politically.
“Maybe nine people had real serious concerns,” Clyburn said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The fact of the matter is, about 30 of them, and I’ve talked to them, were insulating themselves against sound bites.”
Clyburn criticized the legislation because it would allow insurers to continue to sell what he called “substandard” and “junk” policies.
But Republicans said Democrats were trying to gloss over the problems with the law.
“No matter how much Congresswoman Pelosi tries to spin this, this is a mess,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said on “Meet the Press.” “My constituents are very unhappy with the notices they’re receiving and higher premiums.”
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said the law needed to be scrapped.
“It’s time to start over. This health-care law is terribly flawed,” he said on CNN. “The president did not need to destroy a good health-care system to try to make a better one.”
On Thursday, Obama gave insurance companies permission to renew policies that were to be canceled for not meeting the law’s new standards that require, for example, coverage for prescription drugs, hospitalization and maternity care.