The Obamacare recriminations are underway. Stuck with an unpopular law whose launch has been an unmitigated disaster, the Democratic Party has morphed from a ruthless, unified political machine to a frantic, zig-zagging tornado of blame. The White House would like you to know that the Department of Health and Human Services was chiefly responsible for the implementation process. HHS counters that the White House ultimately runs the show, and that Sec. Kathleen Sebelius' hands were effectively tied by her relative lack of power. Some Democrats are blaming the private sector contractors who were brought in to help craft healthcare.gov (conveniently ignoring the facts that the Obama administration hand-selected each contractor, and that the administration foolishly chose to appoint itself head contractor). Not so fast, say the private sector firms, refusing to be scapegoated. Indeed, at Congressional hearings today, representatives from one such company swore an oath to tell the truth, then proceeded to lay waste to the White House's blame shift:
CGI "It is not our job to tell our client whether to go live or not." Look, who am I to tell someone they shouldn't jump off a cliff?— Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) October 24, 2013
Upton asks for a show of hands if it was ever an option to delay having http://t.co/V9tYrcln9u go live. No hands go up.— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorpNBC) October 24, 2013
CGI confirms WaPo report that system locked up after midnight of launch after a few thousand users tried to access it.— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) October 24, 2013
Industry standard for end to end testing is months, witnesses at ACA hearing say. CMS decided to spend 2 weeks on it.— Garance Franke-Ruta (@thegarance) October 24, 2013
Nor can you really blame the Republicans -- an argument that makes sense only if you don’t examine it very closely. It starts by assuming (but never stating) that the administration passed a law that didn't work as written, and then posits a civic duty for the opposition not to oppose laws that they oppose, but instead to help the majority party turn an unworkable law into something more to said party’s liking. This is absurd. Moreover, it’s not even a very good explanation for most of these problems. Maybe CMS turned lead contractor because they couldn’t get more funds to hire private help, but lack of funds does not explain why HHS took so long to write regulations and specifications, keeping insurers at loose ends until as late as this summer, and preventing their biggest contractor from writing code until spring. It does not explain why officials decided to launch a system that was so badly behind schedule, or to keep insisting, against all evidence, that it wasn’t broken.
Republicans in Congress voted unanimously against this law. Republican governors who chose not to set up their own state exchange were exercising their prerogative under the law, which was written and passed exclusively by Democrats. That the administration was "caught off guard" or whatever when Republicans chose not to cooperate with the unpopular law is also their own damn fault. Beyond that, those GOP governors who declined to expand Medicaid under Obamacare were both looking after their state's bottom line, and following the Supreme Court's Obamacare ruling. Seven justices declared that forcing states to expand Medicaid was unconstitutional. Blaming Republicans may be a path to knee-jerk catharsis for some liberals, but it's a totally unconvincing argument to even remotely independent-minded observers.