November 14, 2013
Mary Landrieu (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Mary Landrieu (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

With Democrats shortsightedly threatening to support “fixes” to Obamacare that would undermine the law to which their own fates are irrevocably linked over the long term, the President just held a presser in which he announced his own adminstrative “fix” to the problem of people losing insurance.

The fix outlined by Obama would allow insurance companies to continue existing plans, while requiring them to inform consumers of other options on the exchanges. Obama’s fix stops short of Mary Landrieu’s proposal to require insurance companies to continue existing plans. In policy terms, as Jonathan Chait spells out, this is mostly a bunch of BS by everyone involved: Insurance companies probably won’t go along with it to begin with.

But did Obama’s presser help quell the Dem rebellion?

Senator Jeff Merkley, whose support for the Landrieu proposal surprised everyone because he’s a blue state Dem (who, however, is up in 2014), sends over this statement:

“I applaud President Obama for responding to the call I and others have put forward to honor the promise of giving citizens with individual insurance plans the option of keeping their plan. To fulfill this promise, insurance companies must do their part by extending these plans for their customers. I call upon all insurance companies to fulfill their end of this critical partnership…I am determined to work with legislators from both parties to make the health care law successful.”

Translation: This is now on the insurance companies, and for now, no legislative fix is required. (Though I’m told this could always change.) Meanwhile, some red state Dems, such as Kay Hagan and Landrieu herself, are expected to keep pressing for a fix. Dem leaders such as Dick Durbin, however, now say no legislative fix is needed.

As for House Dems who have threatened to defect to support GOP Rep. Fred Upton’s “fix,” they are holding a caucus meeting today, so we’ll know more after that.

But here’s the thing: No matter what Dems continue to say — and no matter how hard Republicans try to foment disarray among them — it’s far from clear that any legislative fix can pass and go to the president. As one senior Senate Democratic leadership aide put it candidly to me: ” House Republicans won’t support the Landrieu bill. Upton wouldn’t pass here. So nothing will pass both Houses and get to the president.”

All of which is to say that all of the chips have been placed on Obama’s administrative fix. That’s probably the only fix we’re getting, and the rest of the machinations among Dems are probably going to amount to little more than noise and posturing. Indeed, even Obama’s fix, if insurers don’t play along, is probably not going to be a major factor.

So we’re back where we’ve always been: All that really matters is whether the law works over the long haul, and the fate of Dem lawmakers is heavily bound up in that outcome. Dems should probably just resign themselves to that political reality and do all they can to make the law a success, and to communicate to constituents that patience and a long view are necessary.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.