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Post Politics Now ‘I had to show up,’ Obama says as he joins Biden to celebrate the ACA

President Biden arrives in the East Room of the White House with former president Barack Obama and Vice President Harris for an announcement expanding access to coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)
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Today, former president Barack Obama was back at the White House, reliving the bruising battle to pass the Affordable Care Act and celebrating that it’s “pretty darn popular” 12 years later. “I had to show up,” Obama said of his first visit since 2017, as he delivered remarks laced with humor with President Biden looking on. Biden signed an executive order directing agencies to look for ways to make health care more available and affordable, and he announced a proposed rule change that would address a “glitch” in the health-care law that was Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Welcome to Post Politics Now, a new live experience from The Washington Post that puts the day’s political headlines into context. Each weekday, we’ll guide you through the news from the White House, Capitol Hill and campaign trail with assists from some of the best political reporters in the business providing insights and analysis.

Your daily dashboard

  • 10:30 a.m. Eastern: Speaking at a labor event, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed Democrats would hold on to the House. Watch here.
  • 1:30 p.m. Eastern: Biden and Obama delivered remarks on fixing the “family glitch” in the Affordable Care Act. Watch here.
  • 3:30 p.m. Eastern: White House press secretary Jen Psaki provided a briefing. Watch here.
  • 8 p.m. Pacific: Polls close in the special election to replace Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who left the House to lead Trump’s social media enterprise. You can follow results here.

Got a question about politics? Submit it here. At 1:30 p.m. weekdays, return to this space and we’ll address what’s on the mind of readers.

7:28 p.m.
Headshot of Michael Scherer
National political reporter covering campaigns, Congress and the White House
The first of many that want to be first — Michigan is only the first new state to throw its name in the hat, with more likely to come. After that comes the hard part. Democrats will have to negotiate existing state law, Republican lawmakers and internal politics to make a new calendar. Some states, like Wisconsin, have already decided they would rather focus on the midterm elections than all the intrigue. Iowa seems an easier target, but displacing states like New Hampshire from the front of the queue will be harder.
3:53 p.m.
Headshot of Amy Goldstein
Reporter covering health-care policy and other social policy issues
ACA gets a moment to shine — During much of former president Barack Obama’s two terms in office, more American adults opposed the Affordable Care Act than favored it. And some ACA fans contended that the president so closely identified with the sprawling health-care law was not assertive enough in trying to shore up its reputation — especially during the ACA’s early years, when it was under perpetual legal assault and the insurance marketplaces that would eventually help millions of Americans gain health coverage had not yet begun.It was a different backdrop Tuesday, when Obama made his first visit to the White House since he moved out five years ago. Public opinion has narrowly favored the law since he left the White House. Congressional Republicans have largely abandoned their attempts to repeal it. Even a conservative Supreme Court last year upheld the ACA’s constitutionality for a third time.Now, the former president was making his White House return as a private citizen and elder statesman. He betrayed no hint that a rule change the current administration is proposing — to help more families claim ACA insurance subsidies — differs from the interpretation of regulatory officials who had worked for him. “Nothing made me prouder” than passing the ACA, Obama said Tuesday from the East Room. But he invoked a phrase he’s used before, saying the law was like “a starter home. … There were gaps that needed to be filled.”
3:49 p.m.
‘Feels like the good old days’ — Large numbers of Americans think the president doesn’t understand their economic troubles and is pursuing priorities that don’t mirror their own. They punish him at the ballot box in his first midterm elections, ending unified Democratic control of Congress.A forecast about President Biden? Nope. A lesson from his marquee guest today, former president Barack Obama, who learned it the hard way in what he dubbed “a shellacking” in November 2010. Public anger at the Affordable Care Act helped the GOP retake the House.Obama has been in a metaphorical “in case of emergency, break glass” box for Biden’s first year in office. With Democrats fearing a midterm election rout come November, it was time to break the glass.“I had to show up,” Obama quipped. He jokingly thanked “Vice President Biden,” and shared a hug before addressing him as “my president.”The official reason for his return was to celebrate 2010′s Affordable Care Act, which has rarely been more popular. And celebrate they did. “Nothing made me prouder” than signing the law, Obama declared.
2:07 p.m.
Headshot of Emily Guskin
Polling analyst at The Washington Post specializing in public opinion about politics, elections and public policy.
President Biden may hope former president Barack Obama’s Tuesday afternoon visit will boost the current president’s anemic approval ratings. The meeting’s focus on the Affordable Care Act also fits that strategy, as the ACA is more popular today than at almost any point since its passage in March 2010.A March 2022 Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll found 55 percent of Americans were favorable toward the legislation and 42 percent were unfavorable. That compares with 46 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable shortly after its passage in April 2010. The ACA became less popular over the following years, with unfavorable opinions reaching 53 percent in July 2014. But the law grew more popular during the 2016 presidential election, and Americans’ opinions on the ACA improved to net positive as President Donald Trump and Republicans tried to repeal it, and since then have continued to climb. Last October, a record 58 percent of Americans were favorable toward the ACA, and 41 percent were unfavorable.
1:54 p.m.
Headshot of David Nakamura
Reporter covering the White House
Homecoming, with a little deja vu — Will Barack Obama overshadow President Biden on Tuesday afternoon when the former president, for an event on health care, visits his old haunt for the first time since leaving office? It’s possible, as Obama knows from experience.Like Biden, Obama was in his second year in office in December 2010 when Bill Clinton visited to lend his political clout to endorsing a White House tax deal with Republicans. Obama and that former president spoke to journalists in the Brady briefing room before Obama left for a holiday party. Clinton stayed behind — and kept talking and talking.In all, the verbose 42nd president fielded a dozen questions from reporters for half an hour, as though reliving his glory days. He happily ignored then-press secretary Robert Gibbs, who was trying to end the session.“I’m happy to be here,” Clinton said.The question is: Will Biden feel the same about Obama’s return?
12:22 p.m.
Headshot of Mike DeBonis
Congressional reporter covering the House of Representatives
House Republicans lose another dealmaker — Fred Upton’s farewell speech Tuesday was in many ways a throwback to a bygone era of congressional comity, rife with references to bills long passed and names of lawmakers — Mike Castle, Nancy Johnson, Amo Houghton — who subscribed to a moderate brand of Republican politics that has been all but extinguished.But Upton’s remarks also highlighted what the Congress of now is losing: a dealmaker who had his fingerprints on some of the most substantial bipartisan measures of recent years, including the 2016 21st Century Cures Act and last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. He also made mention of the “one that got away” — the bipartisan immigration deal Upton spent untold hours pushing over the past decade to no avail.With Upton making his exit, there will be one less Republican among a dwindling corps on Capitol Hill willing to compromise on issues such as giving the young immigrants known as “dreamers” legal status, boding ill for a future deal.
8:54 a.m.
Sen. Scott’s calculus in opposing Jackson — Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only Black Republican in the Senate, said late Monday that he would oppose the historic nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.If confirmed, Jackson would be the first Black woman on the court in its more than two centuries of existence. Scott cited her judicial philosophy and positions in his rejection while acknowledging groundbreakingking nomination.Politically, his move makes sense for a Republican looking toward 2024. Scott traveled to first-in-the-nation primary state New Hampshire last year, triggering talk of a White House bid, and in February, he said he would be happy to be former president Donald Trump’s running mate.“Everybody wants to be on President Trump’s bandwagon,” Scott said.Supporting Jackson when most Republicans oppose her nomination doesn’t get you on the Trump bandwagon.
8:15 a.m.
Headshot of Annie Linskey
National reporter covering the White House.
It’s complicated — Former president Barack Obama, 60, and President Biden, 79, have long had a complex relationship. When Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008, it gave Obama much-needed stature while reviving Biden’s national profile. The two were famously close in the White House, but as Obama’s presidency drew to a close, many believed that Obama wanted Hillary Clinton as his would-be successor, to the frustration of Biden’s circle.After Biden launched his own presidential run in 2019, he rarely appeared with Obama, in part because of the coronavirus but also to avoid being overshadowed — a pattern that has continued during Biden’s first year-plus in office. But now, as Democrats confront a difficult landscape in the November midterms, Obama’s appeal looms large, especially his ability to generate excitement among the party faithful and his popularity among Black voters.You can read my story about Obama’s return to the White House here.