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Posts tagged ‘Max Baucus’

McCain Bashes ‘Ignorant’ Obama Ambassador Nominees.


Sen. John McCain admits it is “kind of entertaining and amusing” to see how “ignorant” some of President Barack Obama’s ambassador nominees are about the countries they will be serving in, but it’s also worrying, he says.

“[I]t’s also really disturbing because it’s a disservice to our country to send that kind of unqualified candidate to represent us and our interest there in these countries,” the Arizona Republican said Thursday on Fox News Channel’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” 

McCain appeared to be having a good time grilling a trio of nominees earlier this year who clearly knew little to nothing about the countries where they are set to serve.

Norway ambassador nominee George Tsunis had positive words for the country’s president even though it doesn’t have one. It is a constitutional monarchy. He also stumbled through an answer in which he said that the Progress Party was denounced by the government. McCain reminded him that the Progress Party is part of Norway’s coalition government.

Story continues below video.

Video of that exchange has gone viral in Norway, McCain told Van Susteren, and “Frankly, the Norwegian people are not very happy about getting that kind of ambassador to represent the United States in their country.”

He and other Republicans are objecting to the nominees, he said, but Democrats have the majority. And since Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the “nuclear option” last year, nominees now need only 51 votes. Republicans have only 45 members in the Senate.

The appointees to Norway, Argentina, and Iceland all admitted they had never been to the countries to which they were being appointed. Another thing they have in common is big political donations to Obama’s re-election campaign.

On Wednesday night’s “Daily Show,” host Jon Stewart then noted that the future Norway ambassador raised $850,000, while the Argentina nominee raised $500,000 and the Iceland nominee raised $1.6 million.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., last week was confirmed by the Senate to be ambassador to China by a 96-0 vote. Baucus is not an Obama campaign bundler, offering Stewart hope that he knows more about that country because of the business and political sensitivites between them and the United States.

“I am no real expert on China,” Baucus said in a clip.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take Senate.


Image: WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take SenateScott Brown, left, and Ed Gillespie

By Melissa Clyne

In its bid to gain the Senate majority in the midterm elections later this year, the GOP is crafting its strategy straight from the 2012 Democratic playbook, according to The Washington Post.

Republicans are casting a wide net to pick up the six seats needed to secure a majority, putting up viable candidates in a plethora of states where they hope to capitalize on President Barack Obama’s dismal job performance ratings as well as the national furor over Obamacare.

“The key to the Republican strategy is making the next tier of seats [and recruits] as large as possible since a few candidates will flame out, some incumbents will prove tougher to beat than they appear, and the national political environment could shift several times between now and November,” the Post notes.

Republicans need to win six new seats to flip the current Democratic majority of 55-to-45. In the current political climate, they are expected to gain between four and seven seats, according to the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. 

States where the GOP can prevail include Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Virginia, and possibly Minnesota. Five of the vulnerabilities stem from retirement announcements by Democratic senators Max Baucus of Montana, Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and South Dakota’s Tim Johnson.

Midterm elections are historically unkind to the sitting president’s party. Add to that the hysteria over a botched healthcare law rollout and millions of Americans receiving notices of canceled insurance plans and it’s a recipe for an ouster.

According to the Wall Street Journal, five states Obama won in 2012 — Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Virginia, and New Hampshire — are now considered vulnerabilities.

In Virginia, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie should be “a very credible contender who can raise considerable money,” according to the Rothenberg Report, and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown trails New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen by just three points and he hasn’t even announced whether he intends to run.

“I’d be more worried if I were a Democrat than if I was a Republican,” Rothenberg Report editor Stuart Rothenberg told the Journal. “The Republicans’ prospects in the existing targets are improving because of the president’s approval ratings, and they are continuing to put other races on the board.”

By offering voters strong GOP alternatives in a variety of states, even those historically blue, Republicans hope that hijacking the Democrats 2012 strategy proves to be a winner.

“One thing’s for sure,” political columnist Chris Cillizza writes in the Post. “If they make it over the top this November, Senate Republicans should send their Democratic counterparts a nice thank you gift for showing them the way.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Wyden Waiting in the Wings to Take Over Senate Finance.


Image: Wyden Waiting in the Wings to Take Over Senate Finance

 

By Elliot Jager

Sen. Ron Wyden is set to become the next head of the Senate Finance Committee if Montana Democrat Max Baucus retires as expected to become the next U.S. ambassador to China, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Oregon Democrat, respected in his party for his generally liberal views but described by Republicans as willing to reach accommodation across the aisle on economic issues, is expected to push for tax reform, which could include a substantial in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 24 percent, according to the Journal.

Bloomberg also reports another reason for Republicans to like him: he is “an ardent advocate of tax simplification,” favoring individual rates at 15, 25 and 35 percent.

Former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, who worked with the 64-year-old Wyden on a tax reform measure some years back, told the Journal that Wyden has an “unrelenting positive outlook” on things and never gave up trying to hammer out a bipartisan bill even though it ultimately died without consideration.

Another House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, also said Wyden “understands that true bipartisanship builds on the best ideas from both parties.”

The Wisconsin Republican, who is likely to succeed Michigan Rep. Dave Camp as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, would have an opportunity to work with Wyden again next year if Republicans hold the House and Democrats hold the Senate. The two have worked in 2011 on Medicare reform plan, an effort that did not sit well with some of Wyden’s liberal colleagues, The Hill reported.

Wyden, however, has said that he has no plans to work with Ryan again on a Medicare reform effort, although the program remains one of his concerns. He reportedly believes that some effort has to be made to ensure that the program is more sustainable and more focused on chronic health problems.

“His big thing is that if you’re not talking about Medicare, you’re not talking about [fixing] the budget,” former Wyden aide Barbara Smith Warner told the Journal.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

Republicans Looking at Several Routes to Senate Majority.


Republicans count enough competitive races to challenge Democrats for control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, if only they can figure out what to do with the tea party.

Crowded primaries in states such as Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina, where tea partyers and social conservatives are fighting for the nomination and pushing candidates farther right, worry many Republicans, especially after they saw their legitimate shots at a Senate majority slip away in 2010 and 2012.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to capture control from Democrats, who effectively hold a 55-45 advantage now. But Democrats will be defending 21 of 35 seats to be decided in November, and President Barack Obama is looking like a major drag for them. Midterm elections are often tough for a president’s party in any event.

“History is with us, geography is with us and the president’s signature legislative achievement is the most unpopular” law of his tenure, Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said of Obama and his health care overhaul.

Republicans inside and outside the Senate speak confidently about snatching open seats in West Virginia and South Dakota. They like their chances against Democratic incumbents in Republican-leaning Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska and remain upbeat about Montana even if Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock names Lt. Gov. John Walsh to succeed Sen. Max Baucus, Obama’s choice for U.S. ambassador to China.

The looming question is whether Republicans undercut their solid shot with tea party-style candidates who fizzled out in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada in 2010 and Indiana and Missouri in 2012.

Georgia is keeping some Republicans awake at night. Eight candidates, including three House members, are pursuing the open seat of retiring two-term Sen. Saxby Chambliss in a state that dramatically went Republican in 1994 and rarely has looked back. Georgia hasn’t elected a non-incumbent Democrat since 1998.

A loss of the GOP seat would complicate any Republican math for a majority.

The top Democratic hopeful is Michelle Nunn, CEO of the volunteer organization Points of Light and daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn. The younger Nunn’s diligence gets high marks from Democrats and Republicans. She has raised more than $1.7 million and campaigned with a purpose.

While more attention has focused on Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the marquee race of the cycle, Republicans say Nunn is the real deal.

She stands as a moderate Democrat who could appeal to Georgia’s electorate and a Washington outsider in a year when congressional approval is in single digits.

Republicans are nervous about Rep. Paul Broun, who has said evolution and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.” Although the four-term Georgia congressman has avoided incendiary comments in his latest campaign, several Republicans privately fret about him winning the nomination.

Looking to seize the edge in the free-for-all primary, Broun recently pounded rival Rep. Jack Kingston, considered more moderate, after Kingston suggested that Obama’s health care law could be fixed. Kingston quickly backtracked on an issue that resonates with core GOP voters, but then came under criticism for saying poor children could pay a small fee or work cleaning up to receive school-subsidized lunches.

“‘Why don’t you, you know, have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch — or maybe sweep the floor in the cafeteria,'” he said at a Jackson County event.

Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, argued that the presence of tea partyers in primaries is forcing all Republican candidates to race to the right. The result is nominees unacceptable in the general election, he said.

“Primary electorates are so small it essentially encourages the Akin-ization of the entire Republican primary,” Cecil said.

His reference was to Missouri 2012. Republicans were certain they could defeat Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., but their nominee, Rep. Todd Akin, flamed out after saying women’s bodies can avoid pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” McCaskill won re-election by 16 percentage points.

Georgia rules set the primary for May 20, but if no candidate gets 50 percent, a runoff occurs July 22.

Several Republicans insist that establishment candidates will eventually prevail and the internal fights won’t matter as Democrats struggle with the most contentious issue of the year — Obama’s health care law — and the political damage from its many problems.

“I think it may be the most difficult political yoke to carry in the history of American politics,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. “Where else do you have something that affects everybody? And health care does.”

Democrats don’t dispute that the troubled rollout of the health care website has hurt them.

“There’s no doubt Republicans are a little more gleeful,” said John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster and adviser to North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is seeking a second term. “Who can say with a straight face that this has not been a bad month for Democrats?”

But Anzalone added: “It’s not a permanent thing. This is really about the political environment nationally. It evens out.”

In the North Carolina race, Senate Republicans have been raising money for Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House. Tillis faces challenges from Greg Brannon, a physician who has the backing of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and has been seeking the support of the tea party and Rev. Mark Harris, a Baptist minister who was instrumental in the state fight to ban gay marriage.

Hagan has struggled to answer for her support for the health care law, and in a clear sign of Democratic concern, the Senate Majority PAC, which backs Democratic candidates, bought $750,000 of television air time in December to counter Republican attacks against her. The group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more for Hagan earlier in the year.

North Carolina’s primary is May 6 and if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote, a runoff is set for July 15.

Collins, the Senate Republicans’ campaign director, maintained that competition in the primaries will make the party’s eventual nominees stronger for the general election.

Republicans see a potential to expand the field from the top tier races to contests in Michigan and Minnesota. Iowa seemed like a prime opportunity for Republicans after five-term Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin announced he would not seek another term.

Democrats rallied around four-term Rep. Bruce Braley. But on the GOP side, there are no fewer than seven candidates seeking the nomination in Iowa, including conservative radio host Sam Clovis, state Sen. Joni Ernst, former energy company CEO Mark Jacobs and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker. There is talk that even more will enter the race.

Iowa’s June 3 primary has a 35 percent threshold. If no candidate gets that much, the nomination would be decided at a party convention where the most conservative members typically nominate a harder-right candidate.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Senate Confirms Turnaround Specialist Koskinen to Head IRS.


Image: Senate Confirms Turnaround Specialist Koskinen to Head IRS

The Senate voted Friday to confirm a retired corporate and government turnaround specialist to head the Internal Revenue Service, an agency recovering from scandal as it gears up to play a big role in implementing the president’s health care law.

John Koskinen, 74, won a five-year term as IRS commissioner, which would last beyond President Barack Obama’s stay in office. The vote was 59-36.

Koskinen’s confirmation was one of several being voted on Friday as the Senate wrapped up its work for the year. The Senate also voted to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas to be deputy secretary of Homeland Security, and Brian J. Davis to be a U.S. District Court judge in Florida.

Also Friday, the Senate cleared the way for Janet Yellen to succeed Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve. The procedural vote will allow the confirmation of Yellen as the first woman to lead the Fed on Jan. 6, after the Senate returns from its holiday vacation.

Friday’s votes ended a contentious year in the Senate in which majority Democrats changed the rules to make it easier to confirm the president’s nominees. Democratic leaders said they were frustrated because Republicans had blocked many qualified candidates from final confirmation votes. Republicans complained that Democrats were trampling the rights of the minority party, ending decades of precedent.

Obama tapped Koskinen for the IRS job following revelations that agents had targeted tea party and other conservative groups for extra, sometimes burdensome scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections. The Justice Department and three congressional committees have launched investigations.

The investigations, which are ongoing, have shown that IRS workers in a Cincinnati office started singling out conservative political groups in the spring of 2010 and continued to do so until 2012. IRS supervisors in Washington oversaw the targeting but there has been no evidence released so far that anyone outside the IRS knew about the targeting or directed it.

At his confirmation hearing, Koskinen said he will work to restore public trust in the agency.

“People need to have a view that the IRS is a nonpolitical, nonpartisan agency and that they will all be treated fairly no matter what their affiliation or political view,” Koskinen said.

Koskinen’s nomination had bipartisan support, but some Republicans wanted his confirmation delayed until the investigations were completed. Democrats said the position was too important to go unfilled, especially as the IRS takes on the health law.

“Mr. Koskinen is the type of leader we need at the IRS,” said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee. “His experience as a turnaround artist in the public and private sector will be critical as he takes on this challenge.”

Koskinen has extensive experience in the public and private sectors. He came in to overhaul mortgage buyer Freddie Mac after its near-collapse in the financial crisis at the end of President George W. Bush’s administration. He also oversaw preparations for potential computer problems associated with the Year 2000 under President Bill Clinton.

With about 90,000 employees, the IRS processes more than 140 million individual income tax returns each year.

The IRS, which is part of the Treasury Department, will be in charge of enforcing the mandate that most individuals have health insurance, and collecting fines from people who don’t. The IRS will also distribute subsidies to help people buy insurance in new state-based marketplaces known as exchanges.

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Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Sending Baucus to China Removes Democratic Critic of Obamacare.


Image: Sending Baucus to China Removes Democratic Critic of Obamacare

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Sending Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus off as the next U.S. ambassador to China could solve several problems for President Barack Obama, including removing one ofObamacare’s most vocal opponents from Capitol Hill.

Earlier this year, the outspoken lawmaker famously referred to Obamacare as a “huge train wreck,” saying it would be a failure if the government couldn’t afford money for research, reports The Washington Post. 

Baucus has also compared the HealthCare.gov launch to “Humpty Dumpty” with questions about whether the website could be eventually successful.

Removing Baucus from Washington means taking the outspoken critic away from his chairmanship of the Finance Committee since 2007. Baucus plans to retire next year, and ordinarily would be followed in the seat by second-ranking Democrat member Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va.

However, like Baucus, Rockefeller plans to retire after next year, so Baucus’ seat, if he leaves early, is expected to be taken by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the current chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senate aides told The Washington Post. Wyden has criticized the White House’s healthcare plans in the past, but he is not as strident with his opposition as Baucus.

But there are other possible reasons beyond Obamacare for the president to nominate Baucus, The Post reports.

Baucus, 72, is leaving office next year, but Republicans are expected to take the red state next year with Rep. Steve Daines.

However, if Baucus steps down early, The Post speculates, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock can appoint a Democratic replacement who would be able to run for a full six-year term in 2014. Lt. Gov. John Walsh is already running for the seat, but if he is appointed to it early, he would be the incumbent when the election takes place, giving him an advantage over other candidates.

Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina, who is Baucus’ former top hand, may also be considering a campaign, The Post reports, so his name could also be in the short list to fill Baucus’ seat.

Baucus though, does have extensive experience in China, having visited eight times. He also lead U.S. efforts in the 1990s to persuade China to enter the World Trade Organization and worked to establish Permanent Normal Trade Relations between the two countries.

In addition, Baucus has hosted Chinese trade delegations in both Montana and Washington D.C.

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Top Democrat Baucus Sees ‘Huge Train Wreck’ for Obamacare
Top Democrat Baucus, Head of Finance Panel, to Retire

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Obama Looks to Baucus to Serve as China Ambassador.


President Barack Obama is looking to the Senate again to fill a top diplomatic post, with Democratic officials saying he intends to nominate six-term Sen. Max Baucus of Montana to be the next U.S. ambassador to China.

Baucus, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election, is knowledgeable on trade issues as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee but better known for his work on that panel steering Obama’s health care overhaul into law three years ago.

If confirmed by the Senate, Baucus would replace Ambassador Gary Locke, who plans to step down next year. The White House could make a formal announcement about the selection of Baucus as early as Thursday.

Nearly a year ago, Obama reached into the Senate ranks when he nominated then-Sen. John Kerry to serve as secretary of state. The Massachusetts Democrat had a smooth path to confirmation, and Baucus, as a member of the Senate club, is likely to easily secure approval from his colleagues.

Baucus’ departure from the Senate would have an immediate impact on one of Congress’ most powerful committees and on the 2014 election for control of Congress. Under Montana state law, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock has the authority to name a Senate successor to serve until the election, and speculation immediately turned to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. John Walsh, already running for Senate.

Baucus, 72, sidestepped questions about the ambassadorship when asked in the Capitol. “It’s not for me to comment on. … This happens every once in a while. Names get floated around.”

The White House had no immediate comment on the disclosure, which was made by officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the nomination publicly before a formal announcement.

Kathy Weber, a spokeswoman in Baucus’ office, declined to confirm the move but said, “Max has given his life to public service and when asked to serve he takes that request very seriously.”

Obama is in search of a new top diplomat in Beijing as he executes a so-called Asia pivot in U.S. military strategy to more directly counter China after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The relationship between the two nations has grown more troubled in recent weeks, with Chinese authorities unilaterally declaring an air defense zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea. The United States subsequently flew a pair of B-52 bombers through the space last month without incident, and Vice President Joe Biden sought to calm matters on his recent trip through Asia.

Baucus was first elected to the Senate in 1978 and since early 2007 has been chairman of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, health care and more. He has traveled to China more than a half dozen times.

On some key issues, he has pursued a more moderate approach than some fellow Democrats would prefer, a reminder that he hails from a rural, Western state with a history of electing Republicans as well as Democrats to top political offices.

Shortly after becoming chairman, he led the opposition to then-President George W. Bush’s proposal to privatize Social Security.

Two years later, with Obama in the White House, he struggled for months to assemble bipartisan backing for health care legislation in 2009 to the growing impatience of fellow Democrats. He managed to gain one Republican vote for legislation that cleared committee, but the final bill was thoroughly partisan.

As committee chairman, Baucus has pressed both Democratic and Republican administrations to take a harder line against what he says are unfair Chinese trade practices. The country has the largest trade surplus of any nation with the U.S., and American manufacturers claim it is manipulating its currency to maintain that imbalance.

Inside the Senate, Baucus’ appointment would create a vacancy atop the panel that Senate Democrats would fill. Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia is immediately behind Baucus in seniority and ordinarily would ascend to the chairmanship but has announced he intends to retire at the end of next year. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is next in line in seniority.

In comments to reporters, Rockefeller indicated he would not seek to claim the spot, saying it would be good if Wyden succeeded Baucus. “I want that committee to be a little more aggressive, and he will be,” he said.

Wyden is chairman of the Energy Committee and would likely be replaced there by an oil state Democrat, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

With Democrats struggling to retain their majority in the 2014 elections, Baucus’ announced retirement had turned the state into a challenging one for the party. Obama lost the state in 2012 to Republican Mitt Romney by 13 points.

First-term Republican Rep. Steve Daines has announced his candidacy for the seat.

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© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Officials: Baucus to be Named Ambassador to China.


Democratic officials say President Barack Obama intends to nominate Montana Sen. Max Baucus as ambassador to China.

The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation. The Democrat had announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election.

The 72-year-old Baucus is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over taxes, trade and other areas.

He was instrumental in efforts to pass Obama’s health care law four years ago and has spent much of this year seeking to build support for a sweeping overhaul of the tax code.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the nomination in advance of Obama’s announcement.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

John Fund: Obamacare Rollout Worst Since New Coke.


The launch of the Affordable Care Act is “the worst rollout of a new product since New Coke,” says Newsmax contributor and conservative columnist John Fund.

Max Baucus, the Democratic chairman of the Finance Committee, said it was a train wreck. That’s an insult to train wrecks,” Fund told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

“Train wrecks at least were going before they wrecked,” he said Tuesday. “This thing didn’t even get going.”

Story continues below video.

The Obama administration’s attempts to fix the Affordable Care Act’s troubled  HealthCare.gov website by bringing in more technicians could be a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth,” Fund said.

“Just throwing more people at a problem isn’t necessarily solving it. It can complicate it,” he said.

“Now, in one respect they probably do need more people. They have 5 million lines of code that they have to rewrite. The best tech experts I talk to say that it’ll be months before this thing gets straightened out.

“Then we run into the problem of deadlines. On Jan. 1, which is barely two months away, every American will legally have to be required to have health insurance.”

Fund thinks the problems surrounding the Affordable Care Act put enormous pressure on Democratic senators up for election in 2014.

“They don’t want this hanging over their head, constituents complaining because it’s premium shock, it’s sticker shock, people having their coverage dropped by employers, it’s a mess,” he said.

“Ironically, the government shutdown was all about the Republicans’ demanding a one-year delay in the implementation of Obamacare for individuals, since he gave companies a delay of one year. And he didn’t take that deal. He may rue the day that he didn’t take them up on that.”

He said Republican lawmakers can continue to fight the Affordable Care Act, but must push “a real alternative.”

“We need someone like [neurosurgeon and conservative] Ben Carson, or someone like that, to carry the message and become a national spokesman,” Fund said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Bill Hoffmann

Obama to Advisers: No Excuses for Rocky Obamacare Rollout.


Last week, President Barack Obama gathered some of his top advisers in the Oval Office to discuss the problem-plagued rollout of his healthcare legislation. He told his team the administration had to own up to the fact that there were no excuses for not having the health care website ready to operate on Day One.

The admonition from a frustrated president came amid the embarrassing start to sign-ups for the health care insurance exchanges. The president is expected to address the cascade of computer problems Monday during an event at the White House.

Administration officials say more than 476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through federal and state exchanges. The figures mark the most detailed measure yet of the problem-plagued rollout of the insurance market place.

However, the officials continue to refuse to say how many people have actually enrolled in the insurance markets. And without enrollment figures, it’s unclear whether the program is on track to reach the 7 million people projected by the Congressional Budget Office to gain coverage during the six-month sign-up period.

The first three weeks of sign-ups have been marred by a cascade of computer problems, which the administration says it is working around the clock to correct. The rough rollout has been a black eye for Obama, who invested significant time and political capital in getting the law passed during his first term.

The officials said technology experts from inside and outside the government are being brought in to work on the glitches, though they did not say how many workers were being added.

Officials did say staffing has been increased at call centers by about 50 percent. As problems persist on the federally run website, the administration is encouraging more people to sign up for insurance over the phone.

The officials would not discuss the health insurance rollout by name and were granted anonymity.

Despite the widespread problems, the White House has yet to fully explain what went wrong with the online system consumers were supposed to use to sign up for coverage.

Administration officials initially blamed a high volume of interest from ordinary Americans for the frozen screens that many people encountered. Since then, they have also acknowledged problems with software and some elements of the system’s design.

Interest in the insurance markets appears to continue to be high. Officials said about 19 million people have visited HealthCare.gov as of Friday night.

Of the 476,000 applications that have been started, just over half have been from the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead in running the markets. The rest of the applications have come from the 14 states running their own markets, along with Washington, D.C.

The White House says it plans to release the first enrollment totals from both the federal and state-run markets in mid-November.

An internal memo obtained by The Associated Press showed that the administration projected nearly a half million people would enroll for the insurance markets during the first month.

Officials say they expect enrollments to be heavier toward the end of the six-month sign up window.

Problems with the rollout were largely overshadowed by Republican efforts to force changes to the health care law in exchange for funding the government. That effort failed and the government reopened last week with “Obamacare” intact.

Some Republicans are now calling for the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The White House says it has complete confidence in her. House Republicans have scheduled a hearing next week to look into the rollout problems.

White House allies say they’re confident the problems are being addressed.

“There’s no question the marketplace website needs some improvement,” said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., one of the architects of the law. “The administration needs to fix the computer bugs and I’m confident that they’re working around the clock to fix the problems.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

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