Congressional Democrats and their allies held a celebratory press conference today in the basement of the Capitol to mark the opening of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges. Attendees were decked out in round “Get Covered” stickers and hot-pink T-shirts reading “Get Ready, Get Covered, Planned Parenthood.”
The speakers found a cheerful spin for the widespread website breakdowns. Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the DNC, crowed: “This morning, the best outcome you could possibly have: All across the country, websites are slowing down because people are going on the exchanges to find out what their options are and to enroll in the Affordable Care Act. And no Tea Party or government shutdown is going to stop that from happening!”
Senator Harry Reid also took an upbeat perspective to the websites’ technical difficulties, invoking the words of a billionaire tech entrepreneur. “I had a meeting less than a year ago out in California, the San Francisco area, with one of the original founders of Google,” Reid said. “He told me when they first came online, oh, did they have problems. They had problems because too many people wanted to use Google! Their computers kept crashing! Well, we have a few problems today. Why? Because in New York alone in the first few hours, two and a half million people want to sign up.”
Another theme: The Affordable Care Act is the law. “The Affordable Care Act is law,” said Mary Kay Henry, the president of SEIU. “Can you say it with me, brothers and sisters? The Affordable Care Act is law.”
Lee Saunders, AFSCME’s president, took a slightly different tone. “They can have as many tantrums as they want,” he said of House Republicans.
Pelosi beamed. “Good afternoon,” she greeted attendees, “and a good afternoon it is, isn’t it, on this day when we begin enrollment of the Affordable Care Act. How exciting!”
She also said the ACA is a tribute to Washington, Jefferson, et al. “The law honors the vows of our Founders, of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” she said. “A healthier life, the liberty to pursue your happiness if you’re a photographer, an artist, you want to be self-employed, start your own business, change jobs, you can follow your passion, not be job-locked by your policy.”
Reid was a bit more acerbic. Regarding opponents of the ACA, he said, “Why don’t they get a life and figure out something else —” The rest of his words were drowned out by applause.