Today in the Morning Line:
- Health-care deadline (sort of)
- Jobless benefits get Senate vote, but will hit hurdle in House
- Democrats aren’t likely to take back the House – and we know why
- No deal with Russia but both sides to keep talking
- The “Sheldon Primary,” Christie’s “occupied territories” gaffe, and is “Compassionate Conservatism” making a comeback?
It’s the last day to sign up for health care – in theory: Monday is the last day to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act without incurring a penalty. At least that’s what’s supposed to happen. In reality, if you have a mild sense of engagement, you can figure out a way to get an extension until at least mid-April and beyond. Last week, the administration announced it would extend the deadline for those who are already in line, but for whatever reason couldn’t get through to complete enrollment. But all anyone has to do is check a box and SAY that was their intention. In addition, you can still get an extension AFTER the mid-April extension if you had a baby, are getting a divorce, are changing jobs, or get this, had a technical problem with the HealthCare.gov website. And there was already one this morning, which was down this morning from about 3:00 am ET on. This was the message on the site at around 7:30 am ET: “The system isn’t available at the moment. We’re currently performing maintenance. Please try again later.” Then at 8:00 am, it said there was too much traffic and, “We need you to wait here.” Ouch.
The White House knows the mandate is not popular and the least engaged young people, who don’t sign up, are the ones who are going to howl the loudest when they go to do their taxes. There’s only so long, the administration can push that off. The law also remains unpopular. The latest Kaiser Health Tracking poll, in line with others, shows just 38 percent have a favorable view of the law, while 46 percent have an unfavorable one. All that said, reaching six million sign ups (and possibly on the way to seven million) is a very good sign for the administration after the rocky rollout of the website. Clearly, there is demand for health care. And the millions with it now are going to have to figure into what Republicans decide to do from a policy standpoint. It will be awfully tough to go through with full repeal when millions of people have signed up. But it’s notable, by the way, that President Obama has no public scheduled events commemorating the day.
Jobless benefits extension vote expected after 5:30 pm ET: Four months after jobless benefits expired for the long-term unemployed, the Senate is poised to pass a five-month extension. But in a usual Washington story, it is hitting a roadblock in the House. “Our position hasn’t changed,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told Morning Line. “We still need a fiscally responsible plan that also includes something on jobs. And there is still concern that the Senate bill is simply unworkable.” Boehner has said he wants it paid for and would like something on energy jobs included.
Democrats are probably not taking back the House and we know why: Speaking of a Democratic priority passing the Senate that gets held up in the House, [AP](http://bigstory.ap.org/article/gop-has-built-advantage-fight-us-house] is out with a deep look at the House landscape and concludes essentially that Democrats are fighting an uphill battle and likely won’t be able to take back the House after 2020 redistricting, something some of us have been saying since 2010 redistricting. It continues to be an amazing fact that Democrats won the House ballot in 2012 yet were still in the minority. That’s because of redistricting. And while Democrats may think that’s unfair, they largely ignored state legislative races as compared to Republicans between 2000 and 2010. Sure, it would make more sense if there was an algorithm that figured out based on population what districts would look like. But that’s not currently the system. Until Democrats figure that out, they will continue to struggle to take back the House.
U.S. searches for Ukraine ‘off-ramp’: Russian President Vladimir Putin opened a diplomatic avenue in the Ukraine standoff, calling President Obama Friday. President Obama told Putin he wanted something in writing and urged Putin to pull troops back from the Ukrainian border, according to a White House readout of the phone call. As many as 50,000 Russian troops line that border even as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Paris over the weekend. The two sides did not reach a deal but agreed to continue talking, which key. A senior White House official told Morning Line the Friday call was “frank and direct” (language always used to describe a tense exchange with foreign leaders) and indicated that the U.S. is skeptical of the Russian outreach but hopeful. We “have to see whether [the] Russians are serious about diplomacy,” the official said. The U.S. laid out various steps, which Kerry and Lavrov have discussed previously, that would build confidence for de-escalation ahead of the upcoming Ukrainian elections — (1) Putting in place international monitors, (2) pull back Russian forces, and (3) direct Russia-Ukraine dialogue. The official also says Ukraine is open to constitutional reforms that would protect the Russian-speaking population.
2016 watch — ‘The Sheldon Primary’ and the comeback of ‘Compassionate Conservatism’?: A trio of Republican governors took to Las Vegas to speak before the Republican Jewish Coalition, hit President Obama on foreign policy and woo billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie capped off a tough week making headlines with a flub talking about having flown over “occupied territories” while in the Mideast. It was clear he was trying to compliment Israelis’ efforts there, but the remark raised eyebrows and puts another dent in his hopes to win over a key GOP constituency. He later apologized. But don’t miss two of the other governors’ comments, which make it sound like compassionate conservatism might be making a comeback. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: “We can’t be the accountant party. We’ve got to be the party of more freedom, more opportunity, more prosperity.” And Ohio Gov. John Kasich said the GOP needs to “show people that we understand their problems, we care about their problems, we want to help them.” (Although it was awkward how many times Kasich invoked “Sheldon.”) Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the pragmatic brother of the original “Compassionate Conservative” campaigner, was also on hand and met as well with Adelson. Perhaps even more compelling was who wasn’t there — Rand Paul. Since the days of Pat Robertson, there have always been two tracks to the GOP nomination — the social conservatives versus the establishment. Add in this cycle, the complication of foreign policy. The timing is more ripe for Paul now than it was for Pat Buchanan in the 90s, but this is shaping up to be something of a triangular nominating process — social conservatives vs. establishment vs. Libertarians.