By Mike Lillis - 11/13/13 11:58 AM EST
House Democratic leaders are doubling down in their opposition to GOP legislation that would allow Americans to keep their healthcare plans, even as the party is taking a political drubbing over the contentious issue.
Although several centrist Democrats have already endorsed the Republican measure, sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Democratic leaders are digging in behind President Obama, who is adamantly opposed to the GOP bill.
"The Upton bill is just another attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act. That's it. It's plain and simple," Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday after a closed-door meeting of the caucus in the Capitol. "And when my colleagues on our side understand that, I believe they'll vote against it."
Pressure is mounting on Obama to come up with administrative changes to the healthcare law that would allow more Americans to keep their current insurance plans.
In the months leading up to the law's 2010 passage, Obama had promised that those who liked their plans would have the option of staying in them. But in recent weeks, as the deadline for the individual insurance mandate has inched closer, millions of Americans have received cancellation notices because their plans don't meet the minimum coverage criteria established by the law.
Democratic leaders have defended those dynamics, at once blaming insurance companies for offering inferior products and arguing that those who lose their current insurance will ultimately benefit by moving into more robust plans covering many more services.
"There is nothing in the Affordable Care Act that is requiring these policies to be canceled," Becerra said. "That insurance companies are canceling health insurance policies that Americans may be holding today is the decision of those insurance companies."
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) piled on, arguing the Upton bill would allow patients to enroll in inferior plans that the healthcare law was designed to discourage.
"They could reinstate exclusions for pre-existing conditions. They could reinstate gender ratings that would make women pay more," she said. "In other words, [it's] a bill that would allow the insurance companies to go back to their old ways."
But Republicans have pounced, and House GOP leaders have increased the pressure by scheduling a Friday vote on the Upton bill.
"The president has an opportunity over the next couple of weeks to keep his promise," Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday at a press briefing. "This is not about politics. These are about real people in our districts that are being harmed by ObamaCare."
As the story has churned countless headlines, a growing number of Democrats are also calling on the Obama administration to support a fix.
"Telling people that [these are] the worst kind of policies [that] don't cover anything does not undo the fact that it was a commitment that was made," Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said as he left Wednesday's caucus meeting. "The insurance companies were bound to exploit this. We knew that from the beginning."
With the House vote just two days away, many Democrats are urging the White House to come up with an administrative alternative to the Upton bill before that measure hits the floor and Democrats face pressure to back it.
Briefing the Democrats at Wednesday's caucus meeting were David Simas, the White House deputy senior adviser for communications and strategy; and Mike Hash, director of the Office of Health Reform at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Democrats leaving the meeting said the administrative officials gave no details about what tweaks the health department has in mind, or when they might surface.