Hagan, Begich, Manchin Get Aggressive on Obamacare

Senators are looking for ways to fix Obamacare ahead of re-election campaigns.

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., comes out from the weekly policy luncheon Oct. 4, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
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Republicans have been quick to pounce on the problems plaguing the implementation of Obamacare and now Democrats are pouring on pressure to fix it. The usually united Democratic caucus doesn't typically unleash on its own -- that is, unless a competitive election is right around the corner.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been grilled in both chambers on Capitol Hill, answering lawmakers' questions about the malfunctioning web portal. She's adopted the blame as her own and pleaded for patience as the administration improves on a rollout she admits has been "excruciatingly awful for too many people."

For Democrats on the chopping block in conservative states in 2014, supporting Obamacare was always a gamble. Now, with the announcement that the marketplace has attracted an abysmally low number of enrollees, it could be a breaking point.

[READ: Obamacare Enrollment Misses Expectations]

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., who faces re-election in 2014, wants a full investigation of how the Obamacare website managed to go live with so many technical mishaps.

"These problems are simply unacceptable, and Americans deserve answers and swift solutions," Hagan said in a letter to the Government Accountability Office. "Taxpayers are owed a full and transparent accounting of how the vendors contracted to build the site failed to launch it successfully. We strongly urge to you undertake a complete, thorough investigation."

Hagan, who has also sponsored a bill to repeal the medical device tax, is one of a handful of Democrats racing to distance themselves from the Obama administration's botched healthcare rollout.

Hagan's poll numbers have dropped since the Obamacare exchanges opened in October. A left-leaning Public Policy Polling survey Tuesday showed that while her approval rating has remained steady, her disapproval rating has jumped from 38 percentage points to 48 percentage points. The poll also showed her virtually in a dead heat with her GOP competitors Heather Grant, Thom Tillis and Greg Brannon.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who also faces an election in 2014, enrolled in the health care exchange Monday, but refused his employer-subsidy. The subsidy has been a point of contention, as some Republicans have charged Democrats with carving out a "special break" for Congress when they drafted the law.

"I want to have the exact same experience and go through the same steps as other Alaskans when it comes to signing up for health care, which is why I have decided to refuse any federal subsidy and have signed up on Alaska's federally run Marketplace," Begich said in a statement.

The White House has braced itself as Democrats have forged their own paths to cover themselves from Obamacare's flaws.

Sensing their frustration, the White House invited a handful of Senate Democrats including Begich to talk for two hours Wednesday about what could be done to improve the rollout.

[OPINION: Another Way Taxpayers Lose Under Obamacare]

"It's absolutely unacceptable in this day and age that the administration can't deliver on the promises it made to all Americans because of technical problems with a website," Begich said in a statement following that meeting.

Even senators who have several years before they must run for re-election are positioning themselves now for an uphill fight. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., who is not up for re-election until 2018, went as far as to join a coalition of Republicans who are pushing for a delay of health care's centerpiece provision, the individual mandate.

Polling shows Republicans have a major opportunity to run against Obamacare in 2014 and perhaps even beyond.

Nationally, Obamacare's popularity is waning. A right-leaning Rasmussen Reports pollin early November showed Obamacare's unfavorability rating had grown to 53 percent as website users grappled with long wait times and thousands of Americans learned they were losing their current health care coverage, which the Obama administration had promised they could keep.

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