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Democrats Fume at White House Over Affordable Care Act's Troubles

“Nancy had to push this through,” Moran said, referring to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who shepherded the health care law to passage in March 2010 as speaker. “There was a long period where I know our leadership felt that the White House could have been promoting this better and also clarifying what they meant to a better extent that they did. And while we can do the lifting of the legislation, they have to do the heavy lifting of the implementation. That’s their job.”

But expressing exasperation and taking legislative action against Democratic leadership and the White House — both contingents oppose the Upton bill as another Republican attempt to undermine Obamacare — are two separate things, and that is requiring House Democrats to do some soul-searching.

“On the one hand, I am concerned that by voting for it, it undermines the basic reforms we worked so hard to get in the ACA,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., who said he was “wrestling” with how he would vote on Friday. “And I have to weigh that concern against ‘but you promised.’”

Moran plans to vote “no” on the Upton bill, but he said he understands why so many of his colleagues would feel compelled to vote “yes.”

“I never said that, my colleagues never said that,” Moran said of the “if you like it, you can keep it” promise. “[Obama] doesn’t have to run again. I don’t know why he has to make such grandiose claims, I mean, I support him, but some of this stuff is gratuitous rhetoric that’s not helpful.”

Senate Democrats are also grappling with the fallout — with momentum picking up for a bill by Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., that would require insurance companies to keep offering existing plans to existing customers, in contrast to Upton’s bill which makes that an option for insurers.

Landrieu’s bill has support from some of her progressive colleagues including Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and the White House might not hate it, either — Carney said the measure shared the same goal of the president and said the White House would work with Landrieu and others on a fix.

Upton suggested he was open to the Landrieu bill, too.

“Let’s see if they can pass anything. Hers is just a bill; let’s see if they can do it,” Upton said.

In conversations with CQ Roll Call on Wednesday, House Democrats who intend to oppose Upton’s bill had difficulty reconciling how some Senate Democrats are pursuing an opposite track.

On their side of the Capitol, they are busy worrying about the optics of so many politically embarrassing Democratic defections.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., who will oppose the Upton bill, said much of it came down to politics.

“People on the Hill understand they are elected, and elections come up next November. And you know a lot of people put their careers on the line,” Cleaver said.

“I just eulogized my closest friend in Congress, Ike Skelton, who lost his seat over this issue,” Cleaver continued, referring to the Missouri Democrat who lost his House seat in the GOP wave of 2010 and died in October.

Landrieu, a moderate Democrat in a red state, is up for re-election in 2014.

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