Democrats Take Cover

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • DEMOCRATS REMAIN DIVIDED: The House of Representatives is preparing to vote today on the "Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013," GOP Rep. Fred Upton's bill to allow American to keep certain health care plans banned because of Obamacare. After President Obama's pledge to deploy an administrative fix to solve the problem yesterday, it's unclear how many Democrats will side with Republicans on this bill - but it will likely be far fewer than otherwise would have had the president not announced his own plan. Yesterday Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argued that an administrative fix is the only feasible solution because House Republicans won't support any "constructive" measure regarding Obamacare. But several senators are still likely to push for a vote on their own proposals, eager to show their constituents that they are trying to slow - and fix - Obamacare, their aides told ABC News. ABC's JOHN PARKINSON asked White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough if Obama's plan gives enough political cover to Democrats running in 2014. "This isn't about elections," McDonough said yesterday. "This is about making sure people have affordable healthcare."
  • WHITE HOUSE ISSUES VETO THREAT: Last night the White House Office of Management and Budget issued the following statement on Upton's bill: "The Administration supports policies that allow people to keep the health plans that they have. But, policies that reverse the progress made to extend quality, affordable coverage to millions of uninsured, hardworking, middle class families are not the solution. Rather than refighting old political battles to sabotage the health care law, the Congress should work with the Administration to improve the law and move forward. If the President were presented with H.R. 3350, he would veto it."
  • OBAMA TO HUDDLE WITH INSURANCE INDUSTRY CHIEFS: A White House official tells ABC's ANN COMPTON: "Today CEOs from across the health insurance industry will be meeting with President Obama and senior administration officials to discuss ways to work together to help people enroll through the Marketplace and efforts to minimize disruption for consumers as they transition to new coverage."
  • S.E. CUPP TAKES THE 'THIS WEEK' QUIZ: Find out the CNN host's guilty pleasure, pet peeve and you'll never guess what she did on her 21st birthday:


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: It was the biggest mea culpa we've ever seen from President Obama, but it may not have worked. Democrats in Congress are eager to cast their own votes, rather than simply endorse an administrative solution. They want their voting record in the mid-term elections to include some kind of fix to Obamacare. The White House believes it has started to calm the jittery nerves of Democrats. But our conversations on Capitol Hill - and in Democratic campaigns across the country - suggest those jitters are very much alive. For the president and his party, the best way out of this deficit of trust and incompetence is fixing the website and having an error-free implementation going forward. If past is prologue, that will be a tall order.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: Is it fair to call it a "fix" when it doesn't fix the policy or the politics? President Obama's apologetic proposal will not deliver on the guarantee that's caused his credibility to suffer: He can't say now, just like he shouldn't have said before, that if you liked your 2013 health insurance policy, you can keep it in 2014. It also is unlikely to deliver on the political front, beyond the short-term avoidance of embarrassment that would have resulted if mass defections came about on today's Upton bill vote in the House. As with most steps along the way, the solution seemed designed to solve immediate problems rather than grapple with long-term issues. Obamacare's precarious financing has now gotten more complicated, with the reintroduction of plans that were previously canceled, and no clear mechanism for getting them back to consumers. Some fumbles are worse than others, and the clock is ticking down.


JIMMY CARTER'S GRANDSON DODGES DC ON PATH TO GEORGIA GOVERNOR'S MANSION. When you see the words "Jimmy Carter's grandson" these days, it's probably best to check which one. In this case, it's Jason Carter, 38, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, and the newly minted Democratic candidate for Governor of Georgia, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP writes. (There's also James Carter IV, who rose to prominence last year for unearthing the now-infamous "47 percent" video of the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. That became a turning point in the 2008 presidential race). Blood is blood, but Jason Carter isn't eager to praise the bit of political opposition research that helped to sink the Romney campaign. This is, after all, Georgia - a place once regarded as the heart of the south - and is now very much a red state. "James is my cousin. I love him. He's a lot more partisan than me," Carter told ABC News in an interview Thursday. "Two of my best friends are Republicans." Later Thursday on MSNBC, he voiced a similar line about the former president: "He's my grandfather, I love him. We don't agree on everything." Asked by ABC News whether his grandfather has offered any advice, Carter hesitated. "I mean, he gives me … yes," he offered reluctantly. Pressed for more details, he added: "The advice he's given me is if you work as hard as you can, if you always tell the truth, you'll be fine."

-THE FUROR OVER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT WEBSITE'S BOTCHED ROLLOUT AND DROPPED PLANS HAS CONSUMED WASHINGTON, but Jason Carter cautiously keeps his distance. "Anybody who looks at the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare or whatever you want to call it, has to recognize that it's a mess," he said. "Again, Obamacare right now is a mess, no doubt about it," he said a second time. "It's a mess. We have to do something," the third time, for emphasis. Right now, it's hard out there for a red state Democrat, especially if they're trying to unseat a Republican incumbent, and even more so now that the Affordable Care Act's disastrous rollout has created more headaches than they'd like to count. With Carter's announcement last week that he'd seek a promotion from the Georgia State Senate to the governor's mansion, he joins a cadre of political legacies seeking to tap into the instant name recognition afforded to them by their parents or grandparents in 2014 elections.

ANALYSIS: OBAMA'S 'WE FUMBLED' APOLOGIES INCLUDE COSTLY ADMISSIONS. President Obama's news conference yesterday was notable for its multiple apologies. But it may have been just as powerful for its admissions, ABC's RICK KLEIN notes. We heard the president admit that the federal government screwed up on a huge project it might never been able to handle; that his own "credibility" is suffering after he misled the public on a core promise on which he built his signature accomplishment; that a broken website might not be completely fixed by a new, self-imposed deadline; and that he's only now discovering such things as "insurance is complicated to buy." "We did fumble the ball," the president said in a sports analogy he returned to four times in the course of more than 50 minutes he spent in the White House press briefing room. Just as powerful was an admission he didn't make explicitly, but didn't have to: The president is clearly worried about saving his legacy project. He's seeking to implement an enormously complicated law with a still-broken, front-end portal. The back-end product - a remade nationwide health insurance market - might not work and, indeed, was complicated by the very fix he rolled out yesterday.

FIVE SIGNS OBAMA'S SECOND TERM IS IN SERIOUS TROUBLE. President Obama is at one at one of the lowest points of his presidency. His poll numbers are slumping, the health care bill that he was counting on to be one of his lasting legacies has been tarnished by technical problems and even fellow Democrats are up in arms, ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE notes. On Thursday, he stood before the American people and apologized - repeatedly - about what he called the "fumbled" rollout of the health care law. "We should have done a better job of getting that right on day one," Obama said during a White House press conference. Even so, he added a note of optimism, predicting that "by the time we look back on this next year, that people are going to say, 'This is working well, and it's helping a lot of people.'" Maybe, but until then here are five reasons why Obama's second term is in serious jeopardy:

OBAMA TRIES A PIVOT FROM HEALTHCARE TO ECONOMIC GROWTH. In a pivot away from defending - and apologizing for - his healthcare website and its troubles, President Obama traveled to Cleveland, Ohio yesterday, to tout economic growth and take credit for the resurgence of the American auto industry and the uptick in domestic oil production, ABC's JON GARCIA and MARY BRUCE report. "We rolled up our sleeves. We made some tough choices. We rescued and retooled the American auto industry. It saved more than a million jobs. We bet on American ingenuity and American workers, and assembly lines started humming again, and automakers started to make cars again," Obama told several hundred factory workers and other guests gathered on the floor of a century-old mill surrounded by huge rolls of gleaming silver steel. "We haven't just been recovering from a crisis. What we've been trying to do is rebuild a new foundation for growth and prosperity to protect ourselves from future crises," he said. Before he spoke, Obama toured the factory, which sits on Ohio's Cuyahoga River and supplies high-strength steel for use in fuel-efficient cars. The mill owner, Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, employs more than 1,800 people at the Cleveland plant and approximately 3,000 total in Ohio, according to corporate literature.

YELLEN: UNEMPLOYMENT 'STILL TOO HIGH'. Federal Reserve chair nominee Janet Yellen faced the Senate Banking Committee Thursday for her confirmation hearing and emphasized a message consistent with current policy in the central bank, as well as a commitment to transparency. Yellen, 67, who is currently the Federal Reserve vice chairwoman and would be the first woman to head up the Fed, defended the central bank's stimulus efforts under mostly mild and polite questioning from the group of senators, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. If Yellen is confirmed, the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco would succeed Ben Bernanke when his term as chairman ends at the end of January. Throughout the hearing she also signaled a desire to help bring down unemployment and strengthen the economy, saying in her testimony that the Federal Reserve's "decisions affect the wellbeing of every American, and the strength and prosperity of our nation."

COACH OBAMA TURNS TO SPORTS: As he fielded questions about the troubled opening weeks of Obamacare during a tense, 50-minute press conference on Thursday, President Obama turned to a subject that he thinks resonates with the American people: Sports. WATCH:


FOUNDING SPIRIT: THE MAKING OF WASHINGTON'S WHISKEY AT MOUNT VERNON. Have you heard that George Washington's spirit can be found at his historic Mount Vernon estate? His whiskey spirit, that is. In the late 18th century, Washington established what was then the nation's largest whiskey distillery, and now, after a nearly 200-year hiatus, the distillery has been rebuilt and is once again making whiskey just as the nation's founding father once did. "I believe that this is a fair representation of what the colonialists would have had," Master Distiller Dave Pickerell told "Top Line" during a visit to the Mount Vernon Distillery. The recipe that Pickerell follows today was derived by researchers who studied Washington's records of the supplies ordered for the historic distillery site. "It was gained by adding up all of the grain usage and then 'ratio-ing' it out," Pickerell said of the recipe. "And it turned out that that ratio matched very nicely with what we know with the good Maryland rye recipe for its time." Pickerell said he's confident that the whiskey being distilled at Mount Vernon distillery's tastes very similar to the original product that Washington once enjoyed.


@DavidMDrucker: Sen Lee (R-UT), an unlikely outsider, road GOP establishment connections & coattails to Tea Party Senate victory: …

@zbyronwolf: "I think the real problem with the president's rollout is dishonesty." @mittromney to CBS on Obamacare

@jmartNYT: Surely when Mitt made his immigration/GOP comments this am, he was reminded that he ran to right on the issue in 2 prez primaries

@thegarance: "no major federal initiative has failed so thoroughly upon its unveiling since the ballistic-missile program"

@cmarinucci: Looks like @CADEM strategist @GarrySouth's characterization of health care as 'Obama's Katrina' hit a nerve … @SFGate