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Democrats optimistic about HealthCare.gov fixes, Republicans skeptical

Congressional Democrats sounded an optimistic note Sunday about the Obama administration's improvements to HealthCare.gov by its self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline. But Republicans offered skepticism about the Web site and, more broadly, President Obama's signature health-care law.

"This is the equivalent of having a great item that you want to buy in the store but not being able to get though the front door,"  Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said on CBS's "Face The Nation." "It sounds like the front door has been opened successfully now."

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on the same program that he hopes "the efficacy of this is much better today and will improve." But he added that he thinks Americans will encounter "a lot of negative surprises" as they enroll in plans offered on the new health-care exchanges.

Administration officials said Sunday they had met their deadline for making certain improvements to HealthCare.gov, which has been plagued by technical problems since its rollout Oct. 1. "We believe we have met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users," said a Department of Health and Human Services progress report.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said on NBC's "Meet The Press" that "the administration has hit the big bench marks they set out."

But Republicans were quick to recall the rocky launch and pointed to broader issues they see with the health-care law.

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and the first impression here was terrible," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) on ABCs' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos." "And I think it's going to be an unfolding disaster for the president. There's going to be some winners, there's no question about that. But there's going to be millions of losers, too."

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), meanwhile, voiced concerns about the security of HealthCare.gov on "Meet the Press."

Speaking on "This Week," Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said: "I'd rather have our hand than the naysayers' [hand], and the reason why is this Web site technology. It's going to get better. It's already better today. And we're only going to be working out more kinks as we go forward."

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean (D) said on CNN's "State of the Union" that he thinks Obama "can right this ship. This Web site is now apparently functional. I haven't tried the Web site, but if this program works -- and I think it will -- three months from now a huge number of people who didn't have health insurance are going to have it, and mostly at a better price."

Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum (R- Pa.) appeared unconvinced. "This really feeds into the president's competence," he said on "State of the Union."

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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