The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 23, 2013

Frustrated Dems lament damage from website bugs

Minn. Rep. Nolan says president should fire those responsible

WASHINGTON (AP) — Frustrated Democrats lamented Wednesday that persistent problems with new health care exchanges have inflicted damage on the public's perception of the already unpopular "Obamacare" — with some lawmakers insisting President Barack Obama should ensure those responsible lose their jobs.

Emerging from a closed-door briefing with health officials from the Obama administration, House Democrats appeared to have at least as many questions as answers about how and when the beleaguered website will be fixed. Although they resolved not to let setbacks with one aspect of the health law outshine the parts that are working, they griped that the shoddy website had given Republicans an opening to do just that.

"I think the president needs to man up, find out who was responsible and fire them," Rep. Richard Nolan, D-Minn., said after the briefing. He said Obama should tell Democrats when the problems will be fixed so they can prepare to move on. "You don't get many second chances to get a good first impression."

Nolan wasn't the only one.

"Somebody should be held accountable," said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. "Absolutely."

The briefing with House Democrats came as the Obama administration is appealing to its allies in Congress, on Wall Street and across the country to stick with the health care law despite embarrassing problems that continue to crop up. On Wednesday, lawmakers heard from Gary Cohen and Julie Bataille, two high-level officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency with major responsibility for the website where millions of Americans are expected to purchase insurance.

Democrats say they requested the briefing. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said House Republicans were arranging to hold a similar briefing with health officials in the coming days.

Echoing Democratic leaders and even Obama himself, Democrats said it was unacceptable that the website's debut had been so flawed. But Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said it was critical Democrats not lose sight of the bigger picture and law's other benefits.

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