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.

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And while the change gives Democrats a temporary political fix, it won’t stop Republicans from hammering home the negatives with the law and holding votes on more fixes.

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 GabbardTulsi GabbardFinancial firms facing serious hacking threat in COVID-19 era Gabbard drops defamation lawsuit against Clinton It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE (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Republicans will eventually need to come the reality that the law won’t be repealed — and many have — but votes on fixes like the one today will put Democrats on record.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 CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPat Fallon wins GOP nomination in race to succeed DNI Ratcliffe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker MORE (R-Texas)

9:15 a.m.: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

9:25 a.m.: Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey Democratic super PAC quotes Reagan in anti-Trump ad set to air on Fox News: 'Are you better off?' MORE (R-Wis.)

9:40 a.m.: Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottLobbyists see wins, losses in GOP coronavirus bill Revered civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis lies in state in the Capitol GOP plan would boost deduction for business meals MORE (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 RubioMarco Antonio RubioPPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden MORE (R-Fla.)

12:30 p.m.: Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Trump signs major conservation bill into law MORE (R-Utah)

2:30 p.m.: NRA’s Wayne LaPierre

2:45 p.m.: Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE

 

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 KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Biden faces balancing act Budowsky: Trump October surprise could devastate GOP Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers MORE’s 2004 campaign, as the committee’s new national political director.

Alvillar previously worked as a senior adviser to Secretary Shaun DonovanShaun L. S. DonovanHouse Dems call on OMB to analyze Senate budget plan Overnight Finance: Dems turn up heat on Wells Fargo | New rules for prepaid cards | Justices dig into insider trading law GOP reps warn Obama against quickly finalizing tax rules MORE 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 BarberRonald (Ron) Sylvester BarberKavanaugh nomination a make or break moment to repeal Citizens United Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Principles and actions mean more than Jeff Flake’s words MORE 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.”

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

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 BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE (Alaska), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuBottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face MORE (La.) and Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory MORE (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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE’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 CornynJohn CornynCOVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (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 StockmanStephen (Steve) Ernest StockmanInmates break windows, set fires in riot at Kansas prison Wife of imprisoned former congressman cites COVID-19 risk in plea to Trump for husband's freedom Consequential GOP class of 1994 all but disappears MORE (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 WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe MORE (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 ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks Overnight Defense: Pompeo pressed on move to pull troops from Germany | Panel abruptly scraps confirmation hearing | Trump meets family of slain soldier Shaheen, Chabot call for action on new round of PPP loans MORE (D).

 

2016 WATCH

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