Tolbert: Pryor Now Supports Delaying Obamacare

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 152 views 

Sen. Mark Pryor continued his awkward dance today on the issue of Obamacare.

Poll after poll has shown that Arkansans do not like the health insurance overhaul and are concerned that it will be a disaster for the economy.  Still, Pryor has insisted that the law is “an amazing success story” and that it is “actually working.”  I wrote last month that it appears his strategy is to go all in on Obamacare.

However, Pryor seemed poised to delay at least one aspect of the plan today as he joins a chorus of fellow Democratic Senators who are expressing concerns after the early problem with implementation.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire came out this morning to join with Republicans who have been pushing for a delay to the individual mandate.  In an open letter to the White House, Shaheen cited the problems with – the website where people enroll in the exchanges – as the reason for asking for a delay.

“If an individual is unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems with enrollment, they should not be penalized because of lack of coverage,” wrote Shaheen. “For over three years, we have been waiting for the creation of the health insurance exchanges, which now in their fourth week of existence, are riddled with problems.”

Although Democratic leadership such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is digging in, it looks likes Pryor is ready to join Shaheen at least in part.

“I read Senator Shaheen’s letter today and support the common sense idea to extend the date for open enrollment,” said Pryor in a statement this afternoon. “I believe, given the technical issues, it makes sense to extend the time for people to sign up. In addition, the Administration should state clearly how the enforcement mechanism will work if people can’t sign up in time. We all want to see the law work, and I hope the Administration will take a hard look at this reasonable suggestion.”

I have asked Pryor’s office to clarify if this applies only to extending the initial enrollment period past the original March 31, 2014 deadline or if he also wants to see the individual mandate delay as Shaheen called for.  This summer Pryor told Chuck Todd on MSNBC that he “is not in favor” of a one year delay to the individual mandate.  It will be interesting to see if he has reversed course.

Hopefully, I will hear back, but we may know soon enough as Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia plans to file a bill that will delay the individual mandate. I also asked Pryor’s office if he plans to support this bill.  It will be interesting to see if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will let the bill on to the Senate floor for a vote.

The delay comes on the heels of some dismal polling numbers from the UA Arkansas Poll.

“Only 34 percent of likely voters approved of Mark Pryor’s performance, down from 53 percent last year. His disapproval ratings were also dramatically higher, with 44 percent of likely voters disapproving of his performance, up from 21 percent last year,” reported UA poll director Janine Parry who also pointed out that in 2009 before former Sen. Blanche Lincoln was voted out of office in 2010 she had a 43 percent approval rating with only 34 percent disapproving.