Hello, 2014: Republicans renew assault on Obamacare

Eric Cantor arrives for a closed-door GOP strategy session on Capitol Hill, Dec. 11, 2013.
Eric Cantor arrives for a closed-door GOP strategy session on Capitol Hill, Dec. 11, 2013.

New year, new GOP assault on President Obama’s signature healthcare law.

House Republicans– who have voted, unsuccessfully, at least 47 times to repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act since its adoption -- will return to Capitol Hill next week in hopes of reforming the legislation. Meanwhile, conservative activists are pouring millions into an ad blitz targeting vulnerable Dems over their support for the law. And 11 Republican attorneys general are now saying the Obama administration broke the law by making changes to Obamacare without getting the thumbs up from Congress.

The call for renewed action comes as just over two million people, even with the initial glitch-filled HealthCare.gov, signed up for health coverage under Obamacare, with benefits going into full effect on New Year's Day. The number fell short of the 3.3 million signups the White House predicted it needed in order to meet is goal of enrolling 7 million Americans by the end of March.

Now Republicans are taking aim. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he’ll schedule a vote next week to strengthen security requirements on HealthCare.gov, pointing to the recent hack of Target’s credit card machines.

“While the Target breach has received well-deserved attention, another report last week also deserves attention," Cantor wrote in a memo to House Republicans.  "Experian, the credit report bureau which also has a division that works on data breaches, released a report that stated, 'The healthcare industry, by far, will be the most susceptible to publicly disclosed and widely scrutinized data breaches in 2014.'"

Critics have argued Cantor is simply using a scare tactic to prevent more Americans from enrolling. A spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Devices – which is overseeing the implementation of the law –told NBC News that users can trust that the information they put into HealthCare.gov “is protected by stringent security standards” and there have been no successful security attacks on the website. 

Meanwhile, the Koch brothers-backed conservative group Americans for Prosperity is launching a $2.5 million media blitz against vulnerable Senate Democrats, (Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire) targeting them specifically for their support for Obamacare.

The White House is coming up against 11 Republican attorneys general saying the Obama administration broke the law by making changes to the legislation without going through Congress. They specifically criticize Obama’s action allowing insurance companies to continue offering plans for another year to those whose plans had been canceled for not meeting the laws stricter standards – something the GOP pounced on in the first place. .

“The fix is flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law,” the AGs wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Dec. 26. “We support allowing citizens to keep their health insurance coverage, but the only way to fix this problem-ridden law is to enact changes lawfully: through congressional action.”

The White House has changed or delayed parts of the ACA at least seven times. Obama, at his end of the year press conference, insisted the exemptions were “adjustments” but did not change the core philosophy behind the law to make sure more Americans are insured.  “When you try to do something that’s this big, that affects this many people, it’s going to be hard,” he said.

Don’t expect the White House to relent either. The Health and Human Services Department has reportedly banked $12 million it will spend on TV ads to promote the law and urge more Americans to signup.