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Democrats seek some distance from Obamacare

| Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, 5:51 p.m.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Rep. Patrick Murphy had been a cautious defender of President Obama's health care law for much of the last year, telling constituents in his swing-voting district that the far-from-perfect measure is critical to helping cover uninsured Americans.

Then the health care law made its disastrous debut. The federal health care website repeatedly crashed, blocking millions from browsing insurance plans. Questions about its security mounted. And cancellation notices hit people who buy their own plans, undercutting the president's vow that those who liked their coverage could keep it.

Now the South Florida lawmaker — one of nine Democrats representing districts Republican Mitt Romney won in 2012 — is distancing himself from the administration and heeding GOP calls to delay key parts of the law, illustrating the Democratic Party's challenge as it fights to keep control of the Senate and retake the House next year.

“It's a complete embarrassment,” the freshman legislator said recently. “There are no excuses for what happened here.”

Democrats are nervous about the implications of defending an already unpopular law in the wake of the botched rollout, particularly in swing-voting districts and states.

Hoping for political gain heading into 2014, the GOP's top campaign committees are tying Democrats to the law's messy rollout in a series of ads targeting women, who tend to vote Democratic and often make their families' health decisions.

Murphy and other Democrats anxious about the issue have a test on Friday, when the House is scheduled to vote on a bill to extend the life of individual health insurance policies that otherwise face cancellation under the law on Jan. 1 because they don't meet minimum coverage standards. The legislation isn't likely to become law, but it's the latest GOP tactic to take advantage of the law's rocky rollout.

Seeking to blunt the fallout, Murphy and other Democrats likely due for tough re-election challenges are pushing legislation to delay the requirement that virtually all Americans have health insurance or pay a fine until the website is certified as fully operational.

Some of those same Democrats have called on the Justice Department to investigate the government contractors who built HealthCare.gov.

In the Senate, 10 Democrats are lobbying for an unspecified extension of the enrollment period. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has introduced a bill that would force insurers to reinstate canceled policies that Obama had vowed that people could keep. Landrieu is up for re-election in 2014.

Others, like Murphy, are calling for the firings of government officials overseeing the rollout.

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