Democrats cheer new Obamacare enrollment figures

CAMBRIDGE, Md. -- Congressional Democratic leaders Wednesday touted newly released enrollment figures showing that the Obama administration has beaten a monthly health insurance enrollment target for the first time as evidence that Americans are beginning to see the benefits of the new law.


House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). (AP)

Speaking at the start of their annual policy retreat being held here on Maryland's Eastern Shore, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said he was especially pleased to see that young people enrolled at a higher rate than in December.

"We think that what is happening is what we thought would happen: The American people are seeing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, of a marketplace where they get better competition and better prices," Hoyer said.

Hoyer and his colleagues are meeting for two and a half days of closed-door sessions designed to allow members to discuss ways to pressure Republicans to hold votes on bills related to immigration, raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. They're also crowing about recent steps Democrats have taken with little GOP support.

"These last two days have been pretty good days for Americans," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), noting that on Tuesday all but two Democrats joined with just 28 Republicans to pass a "clean" extension of the nation's debt limit. And Wednesday, President Obama signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage of federal contractors, a modest but symbolic gesture for Democrats eager to raise the nation's wage levels.

"We also hope that this is a watershed moment, that more will come of this," said Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.). "Although I’m not holding my breath."

One thing Democratic leaders claim they won't be discussing is electoral policies. Democrats would need to reclaim 17 seats to retake control of the House -- a difficult task that is not expected to occur, according to the latest political forecasting.

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) quickly shot down questions about whether her caucus would emerge victorious in November's elections.

"That's not what we're here to do. What we're here to do is talk policy," she said.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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