Appearing in the White House Rose Garden, the president said 7.1
million people had signed up for coverage under the law, known as
Obamacare, and called for Republicans to end their bid to repeal it.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner repeated his pledge to
repeal the law on Monday.
"This law is doing what it's supposed to do. It's working," Obama
said, with Vice President Joe Biden standing at his side. "The
debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is
here to stay."
His remarks represented a victory lap for the administration, which
suffered from the botched unveiling of the program's primary
website, HealthCare.gov, and wavering support from Americans some
three years after the U.S. Congress passed the healthcare law over
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has taken
the brunt of the criticism for the shaky rollout, sat beaming in the
front row during the Rose Garden ceremony. White House chief of
staff Denis McDonough gave her a hug before Obama's remarks.
Experts had predicted a last-minute surge in enrollment. The figure
could give a boost to Democrats, who have suffered from the
criticism of the law, ahead of November congressional elections.
Obama's party is seeking to hold on to its control of the U.S.
Senate and minimize losses in the Republican-controlled House, but
the problems with Obamacare have complicated congressional races and
handed Republicans a key talking point for skeptical constituents.
Republicans on Tuesday were quick to highlight outstanding questions
including how many of the enrollees had seen their plans canceled
because of the new law; how many people saw their premiums go down,
and how many people who selected plans actually completed the
process and paid their premiums.
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"We don't know of course, exactly what they have signed up for, we
don't know how many have paid," Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill, referring to the enrollees
in the program.
"What we do know is that all across the country our constituents are
having an unpleasant interaction with Obamacare. Whether they can
sign up for a policy or not, they are discovering, of course, higher
premiums, a higher deductible."
White House officials dismissed the Republicans' criticism. Speaking
to reporters ahead of Obama's announcement, one official noted that
Democrats seeking to get voters from the coalition that elected
Obama to support them would not be able to do so without embracing
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters her members were
not running away from the issue.
"Our members are out there on the offensive on this issue because of
what we did, and we're proud of it, and we're proud of what it means
in the lives of Americans," Pelosi said after a meeting with Obama.
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