US Republicans are seeing the troubled launch of US President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul as a chance to win more seats in next year’s election, when control of US Congress will be at stake.
Obama last week had to announce changes to the law after his earlier promise that Americans could keep the health insurance they liked fell apart. Millions of people have instead faced cancelation of their coverage.
That follows serious technical problems in the government Web site that launched on Oct. 1 to help Americans find insurance under the new law.
The healthcare overhaul was supposed to be Obama’s legacy. Instead, Republicans are already airing attack ads to prepare for next year’s elections.
One target is US Representative Nick Rahall in West Virginia, who was among 39 of Obama’s fellow Democrats to vote on Friday for a Republican measure that would let insurers continue selling policies to individuals that fall short of the healthcare law’s requirements.
The shift from Democrats was an ominous sign for the White House.
“I’m concerned about my integrity with voters who have returned me here 38 years. They know me enough to know I wouldn’t purposely mislead them,” Rahall said.
Republicans are already compiling lists of dozens of Senate and House Democrats such as Rahall who once repeated Obama’s pledge that voters’ existing coverage would not be canceled.
Top Democrats, who need to gain 17 seats to retake the majority in the House of Representatives, say next year’s elections are far off.
They say the healthcare law will be working well by then.
However, America Rising, a Republican political action committee, is collecting video of Democrats’ comments on the healthcare law.
Some conservative groups are already running television spots, with Americans for Prosperity airing ads attacking Rahall and a fellow Democrat, Senator Kay Hagan.
The healthcare law let insurers cancel some existing coverage that lacked the improved features that are now required. More than 4 million policyholders have received termination letters from their insurance carriers, according to an Associated Press count.
Obama on Thursday took administrative action to let insurers continue current plans for a year. He took the blame for the confusion.
Even so, most House Democrats felt Obama’s action was not enough and demanded a vote on a Democratic proposal.
“They want to be on record,” Democratic Representative Mike Doyle said. “Members are not judged by administrative fixes. Members are judged by their voting records.”