White House press secretary Jay Carney on Friday dismissed suggestions that the passage of the “nuclear option” in the Senate could open the door to President Obama more easily firing officials involved in the botched rollout of his health care reform law.
“We’ve addressed that issue in so many different ways,” Carney told reporters.
“The president wants his team focused on improving the Affordable Care Act and on fixing healthcare.gov,” he added. “The action taken by [Senate Majority] Leader [Harry] Reid is unrelated to the Affordable Care Act.”
The Senate on Thursday voted to trigger the nuclear option and change its filibuster rules, limiting the ability of Republicans to block Obama’s nominees for judicial and executive positions other than the Supreme Court.
Under prior Senate rules, the chamber needed 60 votes to break a filibuster and advance a nominee. The rule change allows Democrats to advance nominees with a 51-vote majority, making it easier for Obama to replace members of his team.
The rule change comes amid the troubled rollout of Obamacare, with the administration struggling to repair technical glitches that have limited the website's ability to register consumers in new insurance exchanges. Millions of Americans also face the prospect of being dropped from their health coverage as insurers cancel plans that no longer meet Obamacare’s new requirements, breaking Obama’s promise that the public could keep their plans if they liked them.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for Obama to fire those officials responsible, as the president’s approval rating plummets and Democrats worry about the fallout for the 2014 midterms. Many Republicans have specifically called for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to be shown the door.
The White House though has dismissed those calls, saying only that Obama wanted his team focused on fixing the problems with the health care rollout and would not make personnel decisions at this time.
Obama on Thursday endorsed the nuclear option, saying it was necessary to stop the GOP’s “pattern of obstruction.”
“The vote today I think is an indication that a majority of senators believe, as I believe, that enough is enough,” the president added.
The filibuster rule change came after Republicans blocked a number of Obama nominees, including a trio tapped for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.