Senator Joe Manchin Bucks the Party Line on Obamacare



To find the mitigated voices on Obamacare, look for the Democratic Senators in states that are trending red in the 2014 races, like Senator Joe Manchin (R-W.Va.). These men and women will not tow the party line — like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did in an interview with a local Nevada TV station in December–and they won’t have the hardline repeal stance Republicans have taken.

Manchin appeared on CNN‘s State of the Union Sunday. When moderator Candy Crowley asked Manchin about Obamacare, he explained his wish to see the individual mandate implemented in 2015, not 2014. ”I’ve only asked for one thing. I said listen, I’m not worried about the glitches, computer glitches. We’ll fix that sooner or later. I’m worried about having the product that the market will buy,” Manchin said. Manchin’s views are key because of the politics of his state. West Virginia has two democratic Senators, Manchin and Jay Rockefeller. But Rockefeller has decided to retire, throwing an extra chance at scooping up a Senate seat to Republicans.

In 2012, Republican candidate Mitt Romney won West Virginia with 62.3 percent of the vote, President Obama picked up 35.5 percent. Manchin’s seat is not inherently safe, meaning he has to consider the political feeling of his constituents on volatile issues, health care included. Delay is a popular idea around the country. When a Washington Post/ABC News poll asked respondents if the mandate should be delayed, and 60 percent agreed that is should; 33 percent wanted the law to go into effect as scheduled.

Instead, of 2014 being the year when people need to sign up, or pay the penalty, Manchin would prefer it to be a “transitional year.” This approach would allow the administration and the nation to discover “glitches” and “nuances” associated with the law. This is important because only then can the country “find out if the market can produce the products that we need to keep this and us healthy.”

It is not only a matter of getting people to sign up for Senator Manchin, but there needs to be an evaluation of who is signing up, and what kind of coverage they are receiving as well. This is vital, Manchin said, because “at the end of the day, if it’s so much more expensive than what we anticipated and that the coverage is not as good as what we’ve had, you’ve got a complete meltdown at that time. So this transitional year gives you a chance to adjust the products to the market.”

This is not the first time Manchin has pushed for a one year delay. In November, Manchin and his Senate colleague Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced legislation that pushes the mandate, and penalty into 2015. Manchin’s statement on the bill reads like his statements to Crowley on Sunday.

Manchin discussed problems that have been identified, and the need for more time to work through the changes. “We need to start working together to fix this law and make it work so that all Americans have access to affordable and reliable health care coverage. We can start with a one-year delay of the individual mandate to eliminate penalty fees if individuals choose to not enroll for a health care plan in 2014.”

When another aspect of the law received an exemption Friday — penalty delays for people who have had their insurance canceled — Manchin again pushed for all Americans to benefit from a one-year exemption. “This piecemeal approach, including delaying fines for larger employers and small businesses but not all parts of the mandate, doesn’t make any sense.”

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