The White House’s decision to extend the ability of consumers to keep their healthcare plan even though it may not meet new standards is another clear signal that Democrats know they will face significant ObamaCare blowback at the ballot box this year.
The move, first reported by The Hill’s Elise Viebeck on Monday and officially announced by the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, spares Democrats from more perilous stories of widespread cancellations just before the November midterms. For Republicans, the campaign ads with fresh faces and new stories would have written themselves, leaving Democrats struggling with an immediate response before voters headed to the polls.
Democrats’ solution seems to be to go out of their way to show they’re working to make fixes to the law.
Another vote to delay tax penalties for not buying insurance this year got the backing of 27 Democratic members, even though it’s DOA at the White House.
The Democratic defectors on the delayed penalty vote included mostly vulnerable members. But there were even a handful who represent safe Democratic districts, like Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) and Filemon Vela (Texas), who voted "yes."
And the White House, per The Hill’s Jonathan Easley, even took the unusual step of releasing a list of vulnerable members they consulted before making the Wednesday delay.
Republicans will eventually need to come the reality that the law won’t be repealed — and many have — but votes on fixes like the one today will put Democrats on record. But for Democrats, the law isn’t as easy a political fix as delaying a major part of the law past Election Day.
TOMORROW’S AGENDA TODAY
The three-day annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) begins Thursday, with activists gathering at the Gaylord National Resort just outside D.C. Check out The Hill’s Ballot Box for our live coverage. Here’s a rundown of the top speakers to on tap for tomorrow:
9 a.m.: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
9:15 a.m.: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)
9:25 a.m.: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
9:40 a.m.: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)
10:25 a.m.: Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton
11 a.m.: Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.)
12 p.m.: Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.)
12:15 p.m.: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
12:30 p.m.: Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
2:30 p.m.: NRA’s Wayne LaPierre
2:45 p.m.: Donald Trump
ACROSS THE MAP
NO RESTING ON YOUR LAURELS: At a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser in Virginia on Tuesday night, President Obama warned Democratic donors that party voters tend to get "sleepy" during midterm elections.
"We’re good at Senate and House elections during presidential years — it’s something about midterms," he said. "I don’t know what it is about us. We get a little sleepy, we get a little distracted. We don’t turn out to vote. We don’t fund campaigns as passionately. That has to change and has got to change right here, because too much is at stake for us to let this opportunity slip by."
DNC TAPS KERRY ALUM: The Democratic National Committee named Raul Alvillar, a veteran of the Obama White House and John Kerry’s 2004 campaign, as the committee’s new national political director.
Alvillar previously worked as a senior adviser to Secretary Shaun Donovan in the Office of Public Engagement and Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and was an associate director in the office of public engagement at the White House. He also served as deputy national political director on Kerry’s Keeping America’s Promise PAC and as political director for his 2004 campaign.
GOP GROUPS EAT THEIR OWN: One in five dollars spent by all super-PACs, nonprofit groups and the like on election advocacy came from identifiably conservative groups attacking Republican congressional candidates, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign disclosures covering Jan. 1 to Feb. 28. Liberal political groups, in contrast, didn't spent a dime roughing up Democrats during this time, focusing their efforts exclusively on promoting Democrats or bashing Republicans.
BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE
AZ-09 (SINEMA): The National Republican Congressional Committee launched its first attack ad against Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), hitting her for her work as a state legislator helping to shape the law.
The attack comes as Sinema is considering a switch to run in the open 7th District, a much easier race for her. If Republicans can drive up her negatives in the 9th District by hammering her with attacks, she might be more inclined to switch races, leaving the 9th District without a clear Democratic contender and delivering Republicans a much easier race.
NRCC SLAMS DEMS FOR ‘PLEADING THE FIFTH’: The National Republican Congressional Committee sought to tie vulnerable Democrats to former IRS director Lois Lerner’s decision to plead the fifth during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.
“Ron Barber continues to ‘plead the Fifth’ on Obama’s IRS scandal and has failed to protect the political beliefs of Arizonans,” said NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek in the release hitting Barber (D-Ariz.). “The IRS is already a deeply mistrusted government agency, yet Ron Barber has remained silent and refused to hold the IRS accountable.”
OBAMA NOMINEE AN ISSUE FOR DEMS: Republicans moved to make Debo Adegbile, the controversial presidential nominee who was rejected in the Senate on Wednesday as a handful of Democrats broke ranks and voted against him, an issue for vulnerable Democrats.
The Republican National Committee slammed Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.) for their votes in favor of Adegbile, whom the RNC described as “a convicted cop-killer’s most ardent defender.”
Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, an outside group backing Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) reelection fight, hit his expected Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, for being “unforgivably silent” on the nominee. And Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the GOP front-runner for Senate in Louisiana, knocked Landrieu for voting for the nomination. “We know Senator Landrieu votes with President Obama 97 percent of the time. We didn't know that even applies when it means voting for a nominee who supported a convicted and unrepentant cop-killer,” he said.
IOWA (OPEN): Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is fundraising for Joni Ernst in a crowded Republican primary in Iowa. “As a mother, soldier and proven conservative, Joni has the kind of experience, skill set and discipline it will take to not only win this important seat, but to also take Iowa values to help turn around the mess in Washington,” Romney said in a fundraising pitch for the candidate.
TEXAS (CORNYN): Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) finally weighed in on the Texas Republican Senate primary — after it ended. The Tea Party favorite endorsed Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in a Facebook post that praised him as “a friend, and a good man,” who’s “earned considerable respect in the Senate.” Cornyn easily defeated a lackluster primary challenge from Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) Tuesday night, and Cruz had notably chosen to stay out of the primary while it was in contention.
VIRGINIA (WARNER): A new poll from Roanoke College puts Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) comfortably ahead of his expected GOP opponent, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, with 56 percent support to Gillespie’s 29 percent support. That’s similar to what Roanoke found in January, when Warner polled ahead of Gillespie by 29 points.
MISSISSIPPI (COCHRAN): Two former Mississippi Democratic congressmen are eyeing returns to Congress, but they’re taking divergent paths to exploit divisions within the GOP to mount comebacks. The Hill’s Alexandra Jaffe looked at why former Rep. Travis Childers, running for Senate, and former Rep. Gene Taylor, running as a Republican for his old seat, see now as their best moment to return to Washington.
NEW HAMPSHIRE (BROWN): Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) invited the stars of anti-ObamaCare attack ads from the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity to a New Hampshire Republican dinner with him this month, sparking renewed speculation over his potential run for Senate in the state against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D).
IS BROWNBACK BACK? Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is rarely discussed as a potential presidential contender, but he isn’t ruling it out. “I’m fully occupied and very happy with what I’m doing. I’m up for re-election. I’m a candidate for governor of Kansas,” he said, when asked by Yahoo News about his prospects. The conservative governor will first have to win his reelection fight, however, which is far from a safe bet.
RYAN TO IOWA: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will headline the Iowa GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner next month, fueling speculation the Wisconsin Republican might be gearing up for a 2016 presidential bid. It’s not Ryan’s first visit to an early primary state this year — he dropped into New Hampshire earlier this year to headline a fundraiser for former Rep. Frank Guinta, who’s seeking his old seat in a rematch.
JUST FOR FUN
Kinky Friedman is back in Texas!