By Nedra Pickler
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama met Wednesday with Senate Democrats facing re-election next year to discuss the problem-plagued health care rollout that could affect their races.
The White House confirmed Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with 16 senators to describe fixes that are being made to the website for Americans to sign up for insurance under his signature health care law.
Two Democrats familiar with the meeting, which was not listed on the president’s public schedule, said it lasted about two hours and also included White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and Jeff Zients, the president’s troubleshooter for the website. Such a dedication of time by so many top-level officials reflects concern for the political fallout the problems could inflict.
The Democrats, who spoke on a condition of anonymity since the meeting was private, said Obama kicked off the meeting and expressed that they all want the program to be successful, and then Zeints gave a lengthy technical presentation.
One the participants, Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, says he urged the president to extend the enrollment period for sign-up because of the problems. Udall said in a statement that he also encouraged Obama to ensure the security of personal information submitted on the site.
“The rollout of HealthCare.gov has not been smooth — to say the least — and I shared the concerns of Coloradans directly with the president. Consumers should have the time they need to shop for a plan and enroll after the widespread problems with the website are fixed,” Udall’s statement said.
After the meeting, Obama flew to Dallas to encourage Americans to enroll in health care plans and also raise money to elect Democrats to the Senate at two separate fundraisers. The president was joined on Air Force One by Sen. Michael Bennet, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The Democrats familiar with the meeting say the senators told Obama stories they are hearing from their constituents about problems they are having enrolling. They said the tone of the meeting was still respectful and that the sense was that all their fates are tied.