The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

October 23, 2013

Obama appeals to allies to stick with health law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is appealing to its allies in Congress, on Wall Street and across the country to stick with President Barack Obama's health care law even as embarrassing problems with the flagship website continue to mount.

The website's troubled debut was overshadowed by the partial government shutdown that started the same day the website went live. Last week, Obama and Democrats walked away from a no-holds-barred fight with Republicans over debt and spending with a remarkable degree of unity, made all the more prominent by the deep GOP divisions the standoff revealed.

The debt-and-spending crisis averted for now, the spotlight has shifted to Obama's health care law and the web-based exchanges, beset by malfunctions, where Americans are supposed to be able to shop for insurance. The intensified focus has increased the pressure on Democrats to distance themselves from Obama's handling of the website's rollout as both parties demand to know what went wrong and why.

On Wednesday, the administration is sending Mike Hash, who runs the health reform office at Health and Human Services, to a weekly meeting of House Democrats to brief them on the law's implementation.

Democrats say they requested the briefing, and an invitation to the breakfast meeting obtained by The Associated Press says it's restricted to members of Congress. But only Democrats can participate in that session, prompting protest from House Speaker John Boehner, whose spokesman called it a "snub" and said the administration should brief House Republicans, too, in the name of transparency and accountability. Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for HHS, said officials would be happy to honor additional briefing requests.

Even staunch supporters of the law like House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip, have said the website's rollout was unacceptable. In a potentially worrying sign for Obama, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., is calling for the White House to extend the open-enrollment period past March 31 in light of the glitches.

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