By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- SEBELIUS IN THE HOT SEAT: This morning Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appears before the Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss implementation of the Affordable Care Act. ABC’s DEVIN DWYER notes. Sebelius’ prepared testimony closely mirrors the message delivered by Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Marilyn Tavenner to Congress on Tuesday. But she’ll face tough questions from Republicans on the troubled roll out of HealthCare.gov and reports that tens of thousands of American health plans have been cancelled because of the law. More than two dozen House Republicans have been calling for Sebelius’ resignation, which she has rejected.
- WE’RE SORRY, SO SORRY: Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Marilyn Tavenner — the Obama administration official dubbed “quarterback” of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation — yesterday apologized for the rocky roll out of HealthCare.gov and defended the law against criticism that it’s caused the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of existing health insurance plans, notes ABC’s DEVIN DWYER. “To the millions of Americans who’ve attempted to use healthcare.gov to shop and enroll in health care coverage, I want to apologize to you that the website has not worked as well as it should,” Tavenner said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee. “We know how desperately you need affordable coverage. I want to assure you that healthcare.gov can and will be fixed, and we are working around the clock to deliver the shopping experience that you deserve,” she said. “We are seeing improvements each week, and as we’ve said publicly, by the end of November the experience on the site will be smooth for the vast majority of users.” http://abcn.ws/1azvi4m
- OBAMA TO RECALL ROMNEYCARE: President Obama will counter-program Sebelius’ testimony on the Hill today with a speech in Boston promoting the Affordable Care Act. This afternoon, in the historic Faneuil Hall, Obama will highlight Massachusetts’s health care law to “help set important perspective” about the rocky Obamacare rollout, according to ABC’s MARY BRUCE. Visiting the site where Governor Romney signed the state’s health reform law, Obama will draw lessons from the Massachusetts experience to argue that his signature law is working and on track.
ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: Whether or not she apologizes today when she’s on the hot seat at the congressional hearing, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will not be able to quell the growing furor and fallout over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps she should have testified last week when the criticism was limited to the website. Now it’s about so much more. She is poised to blame contractors. The contractors have already blamed the administration. But for all the made-for-TV drama today, the buck likely won’t stop with Sebelius. It may not stop until President Obama accepts the political reality and gives serious consideration to delaying at least some provisions of the health care law, a decision that a growing chorus of Democrats are calling for.
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Can Romneycare save Obamacare? That’s the White House’s play today, as President Obama heads to Faneuil Hall in Boston – where Mitt Romney famously signed his state’s health care reform into law, as Ted Kennedy looked on – to make the case for why a slow ramp-up for enrollment isn’t cause for hitting panic buttons. The comparison invites caveats: The Massachusetts “Connector” Website was a vastly simpler took, and it was rolled out over 15 months, as opposed to the three-month sprint for HealthCare.gov. But perhaps the bigger issue for the Obama administration is that the debate has already moved on, from the process to the substance. This line of critique, with its sticker-shock and a presidential promise that never could have been kept, is far more serious than a glitchy Website that one assumes can and will be fixed. Kathleen Sebelius will be the center of attention today, not Mitt Romney – who won’t be anywhere near Faneuil Hall today in any event.
ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: After a day focused on the one year anniversary of superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie launches a seven day 90 stop bus tour today. It’s his last sprint trying to run up the score before Election Day on Tuesday. There’s little doubt he will win, but the question is just how big will that win be? A Quinnipiac poll out this week showed Christie leading his opponent state Sen. Barbara Buono by a 2 – 1 margin, 64 percent to Buono’s 31 percent. The survey also shows New Jersey likely voters say 48 – 41 percent that they would like to see the Garden State governor run for president in 2016. He will be relying on Democrats and traditionally Democratic coalitions like minorities and unions to help deliver that big win next week, but it’s possible we will see that similar message in just a few short years, that he is the only candidate who can get the other side of the aisle to vote for him in 2016. He begins today in his hometown of Livingston, New Jersey stumping at a diner before making six other stops at diners and senior centers throughout the state. He will continue the push through his election night party in famous Asbury Park.
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
AHEAD OF SEBELIUS HEARING, DEMOCRATIC GROUP LAUNCHES MONKEYCOURT.COM. As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill today, the Democratic group, The Bridge Project, an off-shoot of the super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, has laid claim to a new website: MonkeyCourt.com. The site, which launched today, is a play on the words of Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who called last week’s Congressional hearing on Obamacare glitches, “a monkey court.” On the site, the group says “it is worth remembering how officials in the Bush administration addressed the problem-plagued rollout of Medicare Part D. In 2006, HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt was defiant in his defense of the Medicare expansion, even as it faltered out of the gate. Leavitt repeatedly argued that “unexpected problems” were inevitable, vowed that the administration was ‘working with an army of technicians to improve the system,’ and insisted that judgment should be reserved until the program was ‘fully operational.’” It takes a closer look at Leavitt’s comments. See the site: http://www.monkeycourt.com/
OBAMA ‘SHOULD HAVE KNOWN’ ABOUT SPYING ON ALLIES, SENATOR SAYS. Friends shouldn’t spy on friends, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters on Tuesday, noting that she is troubled by reports that the National Security Agency was collecting intelligence on U.S. ally leaders. “The reports are very disturbing. Friends don’t spy on friends,” Collins said before entering a closed Senate Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill, according to ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ and MARY BRUCE. Collins expressed concern that President Obama didn’t know about the program and suggested that if he was unaware, the president should ask for the resignation of those who didn’t keep him in the loop. “If the president didn’t know he certainly should have known, and it would be very disturbing if he did not know,” Collins said. “I would think that if the president was not informed of this program, that he would be demanding resignations of those who should have informed him.” Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney refused to comment on reports that the U.S. is considering halting programs that monitor foreign leaders, reiterating that the administration is continuing to review its surveillance operations around the globe. “The review is ongoing, so I’m not going to discuss the details or the outcomes … until it’s completed. But as I said, we’ve made some decisions, the president has made some decisions, and I would expect that we’ll make more as this process continues. And then when it’s over, we’ll have more to say about the decisions we’ve made,” he said. http://abcn.ws/1f2G2uU
REPUBLICANS ALLEGE DECEPTION ON HEALTH PLAN CANCELLATION. House Speaker John Boehner and GOP leaders yesterday accused the Obama administration of misleading the public on the effects of the Affordable Care Act, which they claim has forced hundreds of thousands of Americans off their preferred health insurance plans, ABC’s DEVIN DWYER notes. “The problem with Obamacare isn’t just the website; it’s the whole law,” Boehner said at a morning news conference. “This is government-run health care because virtually every policy that is sold has to be approved by the government,” he said. “That’s why you’ve got 1.5 million Americans who are already gotten these notices that they’re going to lose their health coverage because it doesn’t meet the minimum standard.” Some health insurers across the country have begun notifying consumers that their existing plans are being discontinued because they don’t meet minimum requirements under the Affordable Care Act. The notices require those consumers to purchase a different plan, often for a higher premium than was previously paid. http://abcn.ws/17W4Y2f
WHY CONGRESS WON’T LET 60 CHIMPS RETIRE. They have spent their lives in research facilities, been injected with miserable diseases, and used by National Institutes of Health scientists to research new medicines, but now, after being designated by the NIH as “permanently ineligible for biomedical research,” 60 chimpanzees, slated for retirement, are unable to be moved to a special sanctuary because of congressional inaction, ABC’s NICKI ROSSOLL notes. At issue is an obscure piece of legislation, The Chimp Act, which puts a cap on the amount of money the NIH can spend, from its appropriated budget, on the care of NIH owned or supported chimpanzees housed in sanctuaries. Currently, there are 60 chimpanzees slated to move from the New Iberia Research Center, in Lafayette, La., to Chimp Haven in Keithville, La., this spring. In addition, this law also means trouble for the 100 chimpanzees currently housed in Chimp Haven, designated as retired. “We have hit this wall, and we need this fixed, or else come mid- to end-November, we will not be able to pay Chimp Haven to take care of these animals,” said Dr. Kathy Hudson, NIH Deputy Director for Science, Outreach and Policy. “Scientifically, ethically and economically that is a bad idea.” That wall Hudson is talking about is a $30 million spending limit, enacted under a law in 2000 that legally obligates the NIH to only spend that much of its appropriated funds on the sanctuary care for these chimpanzees. http://abcn.ws/1andttb
TRAYVON MARTIN’S MOM CALLS FOR AMENDING ‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ LAWS. Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, testified on Capitol Hill yesterday that “stand your ground” laws must be reviewed and amended, according to ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ. “It’s unfortunate what has happened with Trayvon, and that’s why I feel like it’s so important for me to be here so that you all can at least put a face with what has happened with this tragedy,” Fulton said at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing yesterday. “I just wanted to come here to talk to you for a moment to let you know how important it is that we amend this ‘stand your ground’ because it did not, certainly did not work in my case,” she said. “The person that shot and killed my son is walking the streets today and this law does not work. We need to seriously take a look at this law.” In 2012, Trayvon Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of the murder this summer. Although Zimmerman’s defense did not invoke the stand your ground law, the case sparked a national debate about race and “stand your ground” laws, which exist in at least 22 states. http://abcn.ws/HdLork
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
OBAMA PAYS TRIBUTE TO FORMER SPEAKER TOM FOLEY’S ‘DECENCY’. President Obama never served a day in Washington while former Democratic Speaker Thomas Foley was a power figure, but yesterday the President led the tributes to Foley and his era of cooperation during a memorial service in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, notes ABC’s ANN COMPTON. “It was his personal decency that helped him bring stability and order to a Congress that demanded both and still does… At a time when our political system can seem more polarized and more divided than ever before, it can be tempting to see the possibility of bipartisan progress and a thing of the past, old school,” President Obama told the gathering. “I believe we have to find our way back there. Now more than ever America needs public servants who are willing to place problem solving above politics. ” The president sat with the current House Speaker, Republican John Boehner, with whom he has not been able to agree on much, and with former President Bill Clinton who jousted with the Republican who followed Democrat Foley to the Speaker’s chair, Newt Gingrich. http://abcn.ws/16IvFwh
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
WAR WITHOUT BORDERS: THE GROWING THREAT OF COMMANDO-STYLE RAIDS ACROSS THE WORLD. The wars of the future will not be waged between countries but by militias and criminal groups operating within large cities across the world, war expert David Kilcullen predicts. Kilcullen, who was a key adviser to U.S. and international forces on counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, told “Power Players” that the world will likely see an escalation of conflicts similar to the 2008 Mumbai attacks in the coming 30 years. “I could well see that happening in cities across the planet, including cities in the United States,” said Kilcullen, who’s just published a new book, “Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla.” http://yhoo.it/16JVOL7
@joshledermanAP: WASHINGTON (AP) – US Social Security benefits will rise 1.5 percent next year