‘Obamacare’ website woes fuel Republican skepticism

‘Obamacare’ website woes fuel Republican skepticism

‘Obamacare’ website woes fuel Republican skepticism

US President Barack Obama speaks about healthcare from the Rose Garden of the White House. US Senator John McCain says Obamacare’s failures may soften the blow for Republicans.

The troubled launch of Democratic President Barack Obama’s healthcare website could give Republicans a chance to regain some of the political ground they lost during the recent government shutdown, Republican Senator John McCain said.

The Arizona senator, a vocal critic of conservative Republicans who held up government funding for 16 days while demanding changes to Obama’s healthcare law, said Oct. 21 the federal shutdown was devastating to many people in his state. Republicans “have our work cut out for us” to improve their image after polls indicated that more Americans blamed them for the fiscal impasse, he said.

But the problems associated with the rollout of the online insurance exchanges at the heart of “Obamacare” have raised questions about the government’s readiness to help insure millions of Americans who have no health coverage. They also have given Republicans a chance to claim that some of their criticisms of the healthcare law have been validated.

“Obamacare’s failures may soften this blow” for Republicans, McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, told the Reuters Washington Summit. “The debacle that is associated with Obamacare is quickly going to capture the attention of Americans all over the country.”

Obama held an event in the White House’s Rose Garden on Oct. 21 to try to stem the political damage from the problems on the healthcare.gov website, which include error messages and long waits for many of those looking for information about insurance coverage options under Obamacare.

Obama surrounded himself in the White House Rose Garden with a group of people who have successfully navigated the system. In a speech, Obama said: “Nobody’s madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed.”

“There’s no sugarcoating it. The website has been too slow. People have been getting stuck during the application process. And I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am,” said Obama, who counts the law as his most significant domestic policy achievement.

The difficulties with the healthcare law have quickly turned the public debate away from the federal shutdown and near government default, a political stalemate that was stoked by Tea Party conservatives led by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

McCain has criticized Cruz for pushing Republicans into an unwinnable confrontation with Democrats by demanding that Obamacare be delayed or defunded - demands that McCain and many other Republicans have called unrealistic.

Not concerned by facts

McCain added he thought that Cruz - who is scheduled to appear at the Reuters Washington Summit tomorrow - “really believed (he) could force this showdown to the point where the Democrats and the president would cave.

“When people believe in things as passionately as he does,” McCain said, “they don’t get confused by the facts.”

Congress passed a short-term extension of government funding and the government’s debt ceiling, setting up the potential for more fiscal battles in early 2014. But McCain said he hoped Republicans had learned a lesson after reading polls and listening to constituents while lawmakers are at home on break this week.

“I think Republicans almost all have recognized that this whole exercise was a failure,” McCain said. “I’ll bet you that after this week, that when my colleagues in the Senate come back they will be getting the same message that I got here in Arizona: ‘Why did you do it? Why in the world would you do such a thing to us?’ And I don’t have a very good answer to that,” McCain said.

McCain said the Republican feud between hardline Tea Party conservatives and more pragmatic lawmakers had produced unelectable, far-right Republican candidates whose election losses cost Republicans at least five Senate seats and possibly a majority in that chamber during the last two elections.