Democrats Face Obamacare Backlash in 2014

| April 29 2013
Christopher Cook

Dissent Goes Public in the Senate

Unrest over the fate of Obamacare has landed in the United States Senate, where fears are rising among Democrats about a possible political backlash in the 2014 midterm elections.

The concern went public late last week when Senate Democrats confronted the White House Chief of Staff in a caucus meeting about implementation of Obamacare.

The New York Times reported that Democrats in both houses of Congress said some members of their party were “getting nervous that they could pay a political price” if the rollout of the law was messy or if premiums went up significantly.

Democrats in the Senate are particularly nervous. Democrats will defend 21 seats in the 2014 elections; Republicans will defend 14. Six incumbent Democrats have announced retirement, creating open seats in some states vulnerable to GOP gains. A number of incumbent Democrats face reelection in decidedly red states.

Hanging over the heads of Democrats is the implementation of Obamacare now plagued by protracted delays, a long list of regulations, and widespread public confusion over how the healthcare law will work.

Public dissent about Obamacare made headlines recently when Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, said the administration’s record on Obamacare so far deserved a failing grade and warned of “a huge train wreck” on the horizon. Baucus, who was up for reelection next year, later announced his retirement.

In the caucus meeting last week, Democratic Senators Tom Harkin, Ben Cardin, and Jeanne Sheehan all expressed concerns about the implementation of Obamacare. Harkin is so displeased that he has blocked Senate consideration of the administration’s nominee to head the agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid.

Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a strong proponent of Obamacare who has announced his retirement, was one of the first senior Democratic Senators to voice alarm over the complicated provisions of the healthcare law.

“I believe the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is probably the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress,” Rockefeller told a Finance Committee hearing early this month. “Tax reform obviously has been huge too, but up to this point it is just beyond comprehension.”

Lawmakers are not alone in their confusion about Obamacare. The Cook Political Report noted recently that the public is in the dark as well.

“Most Americans know little to nothing about the details of the new healthcare law either,” the Report said. “A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than half (57 percent) of Americans ‘say they do not have enough information about the ACA to understand how it will affect them.’”

The Democratic Party paid a high price in 2010 for passage of a national healthcare law that never gained public support. It may be in for a repeat performance in 2014 as the Obama administration struggles to implement the unpopular, cumbersome, and costly law.

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