It’s the first real sign President Obama is listening to fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill in the wake of Obamacare’s disastrous rollout. The White House is bringing in a former Obama aide who also has 25 years of street-fighting experience on Capitol Hill to fight the efforts to repeal Obamacare.
As Obama’s top lobbyist for Congress, Phil Schiliro was instrumental in pushing Obamacare to passage in 2010. Before that, he spent decades on the Hill as a top aide to Representative Henry Waxman of California, a co-author of Obamacare and the chief liberal cheerleader for expanding Medicare and Medicaid. Schiliro’s commitment to the cause of more government health care is unquestioned. So it’s significant that Schiliro is moving back after leaving the White House two years ago and moving to New Mexico.
Obamacare is really in trouble and Schiliro’s now been coaxed back to serve as a legislative strategist to defend it. He is meant to play the role of the “fix-it” guy on the policy side that former budget official Jeff Zients has played in trying to revive the critically ill HealthCare.gov website.
No one doubts Schiliro’s discipline or his skills, and his appointment is a sign the administration realizes Obamacare faces more turbulence in the coming months. But he will have to negotiate a difficult obstacle course, including the continued unwillingness of Obama to further shake up his White House staff or replace even one official responsible for the botched website.
For now, Schiliro is vigorously on message, saying he views his short-term reassignment as a chance to defend “a law that guarantees coverage to millions of Americans, improves quality, and saves hundreds of billions of dollars.” Now if he can only get the highly skeptical American people to agree with any of that.