The White House's self-congratulations on Obamacare don't appear to be slowing down any after last-week's victory lap , judging by a background briefing with a senior administration official Monday.
Republicans bet big that the Affordable Care Act was going to be a failure, and they were wrong, said the official, who spoke to reporters on the condition that no direct quotes would be used. The GOP may think the health care law is going to sink Democrats, but that is not going to happen, the official said.
Instead, the Affordable Care Act would go down as one of the greatest achievements by any president in history, the official predicted, comparing President Barack Obama's legislative achievements in his first two years in office favorably to President Lyndon Johnson's accomplishments. (For those keeping track, LBJ's achievements include civil rights, voting rights, Medicare and Medicaid, to name a few). The president will speak at an event later this week at the LBJ Presidential Library in Texas. The official also told reporters that Johnson had other advantages, like being able to employ earmarks and other tools that don't exist any more. The 36th president had a more reasonable and rational GOP to deal with, the official said.
(Flashback: Obama Aloof Behavior With GOP Could Hurt Agenda )
Unexpectedly achieving more than 7 million initial sign ups last week — and adding another 200,000 over the weekend — helps give the administration more space to talk about other issues, namely Obama's opportunity agenda and pushes on minimum wage and pay equity, the official said.
While many in the press, including Roll Call, termed the White House's celebration last week a victory lap , the administration official cautioned that the president sees it as just one marker in the law's progress.
Some other tidbits and opinions from the official at the briefing:
- The administration would be willing to have constructive talks with Republicans on an unemployment extension but won't be subject to a hostage negotiation. So far, the White House hasn't seen Republicans propose anything that could pass the Senate. (Read our story on what's next for this legislation here.)
- The official didn't endorse Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez's declaration of July 4 as a time-frame for House action on immigration, but suggested the administration would probably know sometime this summer if the House is going to act. Any executive action would be limited and not be a substitute for congressional action, but the president is committed to finding a more humane way to execute the law.
- The official riffed on the lack of productivity of the Congress, but said some things are still possible, like patent reform and immigration.
- The president's pen and phone agenda is exemplified by the minimum wage fight. The official highlighted state efforts and companies giving raises. Success won't just be measured by Congress but by how many people have more in their paychecks at end of year.
- The CIA's review of the Senate Intelligence Committee's detainee report would be done as quickly as possible, but the official didn't set a time frame.
- Republicans have one moderate left: Susan Collins of Maine.
- Opposition to equal pay will likely hurt Republicans.
- Democrats have been very good on Obamacare messaging. The official noted Democrats saying they are open to considering bipartisan ways to improve the bill.