By Amie Parnes - 11/21/13 06:00 AM EST
The White House says it gets the frustration felt by congressional Democrats over the disastrous first six weeks of ObamaCare, but is convinced once the healthcare law’s website is fixed, all will be well and the criticism will fade.
“I understand it’s not a comforting fact,” one senior administration official said on Wednesday. “But it’s true.”
“There’s no strategy or plan that will be completely satisfactory until the website starts performing consistently,” the senior official added.
“This is a situation where the politics flows pretty clearly from the policy,” the senior official said, adding that the solution isn’t ultimately that complicated.
“We’re focused on the implementation, because when that gets straightened out – and it will – the politics will straighten out too,” the official said.
The administration has set a Nov. 30 deadline for fixing the website. While it appears to have made some progress in fixing the site, it can only handle half of its desired capacity, and it repeatedly failed to work while Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius attended an event in Florida this week.
Such problems have added to the anxiety for nervous Democrats, who have lashed out at the administration in closed-door meetings and to the press.
One Democratic chief of staff told The Hill in an interview earlier in the week that the mood among Democrats over the healthcare debacle is “probably the worst I’ve ever seen it … it’s bad. It’s really bad.”
“This either gets fixed or this could be the demise of the Democratic Party,” the chief of staff said.
On Wednesday, White House officials aimed to telegraph that they were sympathetic to the Democrats’ concerns, but argued there was no winning strategy that could turn around the narrative and the negative press, which have hounded them in recent days.
The Obama administration has spent the better part of the last six weeks playing defense on the healthcare rollout, with White House press secretary Jay Carney fielding non-stop questions on the botched website and lingering examinations of Obama’s legacy.
Carney did not brief the White House press corps on Wednesday. But Obama seemed to make light of such blunders in remarks at the Medal of Freedom Ceremony at the White House.
“All of us have moments when we look back and wonder, ‘What the heck was I thinking?’ I have that, quite a bit,” the president said to laughter.
Behind the scenes, officials say Obama is as agitated as Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Senior administration officials said the White House would continue regular conversations with lawmakers and their aides on Capitol Hill.
One senior official said White House chief of staff Denis McDonough — and other officials including Director of Legislative Affairs Miguel Rodriguez — would keep meeting with lawmakers in the coming weeks.
The officials also predicted that Obama would meet with lawmakers to keep the dialogue going.
“We’ll continue to have conversations and demonstrate that we’re willing to work with them,” one senior administration official said.
But Democrats expressed further skepticism on Wednesday, with just 10 days until the self-imposed deadline by the White House.