Senator Manchin strays off the Obamacare reservation - briefly

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin shocked official Washington yesterday when he told Bloomberg News that he would be willing to support a continuing resolution that contained a one year delay in Obamacare's individual mandate.

But a few hours later - after obviously being pressured by party leaders - Manchin walked back that statement somewhat. He still supported the delay but not if it was attached to the CR, se said.

Fox News:

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a moderate Democrat known at times to buck his party, said Thursday that he'd be willing to support a spending bill that also delays the law's requirement on individuals to buy health insurance. 

"There's no way I could not vote for it," Manchin said. "It's very reasonable and sensible." 

Manchin made the comment at a Bloomberg Government breakfast. The comment, first reported by Bloomberg, was later confirmed by Fox News. 

But hours later, the senator put out a statement clarifying his remarks. He said that while he opposes the individual mandate, "I do not believe that this issue should be used to shut down the government, and I will not vote to shut down the government. We need to work together as Americans to solve these problems so we can get our economy back on track and create American jobs." 

The Senate is currently considering a bill that would fund the government past Sept. 30 while also defunding ObamaCare. Democrats are trying to strip the ObamaCare provision, but first need to round up 60 senators to advance the bill in a vote likely set for Friday. 

The bill, as written, does not include any provision to delay the health law -- which is what Manchin commented on Thursday. But the possibility of a proposed delay has been discussed, either in this bill or a separate GOP-authored measure that would also raise the debt ceiling. 

Manchin isn't the only skitterish Democrat - and he isn't even up for re-election. Vulnerable Democrats like Pryor (AR), Landrieu (LA), Begich (AK), and Kay Hagan (NC) who must run in 2014 know full well the unpopularity of Obamacare - even among Democrats.

But moderate and conservative Democrats have fled on health care. In 2010, as Obamacare careened through a Democratic Congress, 76 percent of center-right Democrats cheered, while 20 percent hissed. By last July 23, only 47 percent of those Democrats endorsed Obamacare; 46 percent disapproved. So, among middle-of-the-road Democrats (57 percent of those surveyed), net support for Obamacare is just 1 percent, the Washington Post and ABC News report.

Fox News discovered on September 17 that 56 percent of Democrats were "concerned" about their "personal health care under the new health care law." (Forty-three percent were not.) Among Republicans, 77 percent were "concerned" personally about Obamacare's medical impact on them; 22 percent were relaxed.

Obamacare generates merely polite applause even among black Americans, the cornerstone of Obama's political base. "Eighty-seven percent of blacks approve of Obama's job performance overall," explained another Washington Post/ABC News study released September 20. "But just 48 percent support his signature health care law."

That tepid support might turn to anger once the flaws of Obamacare start cropping up in the real world. Is it any wonder then that Manchin - a very popular ex-governor who is bucking the administration on several fronts, including the war on coal - would choose to highlight his opposition to the mandate?

The Democrats need to be united on the CR and debt ceiling vote, which is why Harry Reid, or one of his surrogates, got to Manchin in the hours after his original statement and forced him to amend it. But no matter how much they lean on their members, there are plenty of Democrats both in and out of Congress, who are worried about blowback from the implementation of Obamacare and wouldn't mind at all if the individual mandate was delayed until after the 2014 mid terms.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky

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