Health Law Brouhaha Pits Feinstein Versus Pelosi

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a key architect of the Affordable Care Act, is trying to restrain nervousDemocrats from backing a measure that could knock the foundations from under the law - even as erstwhile Democratic allies Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and former President Bill Clinton endorse similar changes.

The changes would allow millions of people who bought health policies on the individual market, including 1 million people in California, to keep their plans even if those plans fail to meet minimum coverage standards under the new law. Insurance companies' mass cancellations of such policies since the law took effect Oct. 1 have been a public relations nightmare for President Obama, who promised repeatedly over the years that no Americans who liked their current plans would be forced to change them under his signature law.

On Tuesday, Feinstein signed onto a bill by Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat up for re-election next year, that would allow those who already hold such policies to keep them indefinitely. The Senate bill is less dangerous to the law than the one confronting Pelosi in the House, by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., which would allow insurance companies to continue to sell the old policies to new enrollees.

GOP political strategist Ford O'Connell surmised that Feinstein is trying to pressure the administration to come up with a fix, given that failure could topple the Democratic majority in the Senate, and with it, every Democratic committee chairmanship, including Feinstein's. She heads the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

"As a realist, she understands that Republicans are going to take control of the Senate if Democrats are sitting there doing nothing," O'Connell said.

As for Clinton, O'Connell said the former president is "trying to create a firewall for Hillary," his wife and the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

Read more from Carolyn Lochhead at the San Francisco Chronicle

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