President Barack Obama is not depressed over his low job approval ratings, a top adviser said on Tuesday. A Washington Post-ABC News poll on Tuesday said the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act had pushed Obama down to a 42 percent job approval rating, the lowest he has experienced in this survey. The Post-ABC poll said opposition to the healthcare law hit a record high with 57 percent saying they opposed it. Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser and a long-time member of Obama's inner circle, told CNN that Obama is not letting the polls bother him.
By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior U.S. lawmakers urged the Obama administration on Tuesday to take a tougher line in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear ambitions, saying Tehran should roll back its nuclear program before economic sanctions are eased. Democratic Senators Charles Schumer, Robert Menendez and Bob Casey, as well as Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins signed the letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, released a day before a third round of talks in Geneva between Iran and six world powers.
By Richard Cowan and Caren Bohan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Signs of progress began to emerge in U.S. budget talks on Tuesday, as top Senate Democratic negotiator Patty Murray said that she sees a path toward an agreement to ease automatic "sequester" spending cuts. Murray, asked if there was now a path forward in her talks with her counterpart, Republican Representative Paul Ryan, said: "I believe there is." The lawmakers are racing against a December 13 deadline for a deal, as Republican resistance to including new tax revenues continued to be a sticking point, according to a Democrat on the negotiating committee headed by Murray and Ryan. "I'm encouraged that there's regular contact between Patty Murray and Paul Ryan and that the staffs are talking and apparently they're working toward some kind of deal. But again my understanding is there are major issues outstanding, the principal one being revenues." Murray and other Democrats on the 29-member budget panel are seeking revenues from the closure of tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations to replace part of the sequester cuts, which are due take a $91 billion bite out of funding for government agencies and discretionary programs next year.
President Barack Obama blamed Republicans on Tuesday for contributing to the troubled rollout of his signature healthcare insurance plan and said it will be hard to "rebrand" Obamacare after his administration fixes a website used to sign up for the program. "We should have anticipated that that would create a rockier rollout," Obama told a Wall Street Journal conference. "One of the problems we've had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure," Obama said. Obama said he thinks the website will be fixed on time for people to "catch up" and shop for insurance by key deadlines, which fall in December and March.
By Roberta Rampton and David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, who has portrayed himself as surprised by technical problems with the government's new health care website, was briefed last spring on a detailed consultant's report that warned of system failure, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday. Carney said the president's familiarity with the report and recommendations by McKinsey & Co did not contradict previous statements from the White House that described Obama as surprised by the scope of flaws in HealthCare.gov since it opened for people to enroll for insurance coverage on October 1. Obama was told the problems identified by McKinsey were being addressed, Carney said. After reeling from technical problems at its website for more than six weeks, the Obama administration on Tuesday also said that it is still months away from completing the back end of the system, including functions needed to finalize federal subsidies for consumers who buy health plans.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he does not foresee a repeat in January of the "crisis" seen in October, when the federal government was shut down for 16 days and a debt default was narrowly averted. "I'd like to believe that the Republicans recognize that was not a good strategy and we're probably better off with a system where that threat is not there on a perpetual basis," Obama told a Wall Street Journal conference. ...
By Barbara Liston ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday encouraged people looking to sign up for medical insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare law to return to the government's HealthCare.gov website, promising them a better experience. "It is far faster than it was when we first opened," Sebelius said of the website. On a swing through Florida to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, Sebelius said: "Come back now. The federal website is meant to help people in 36 states, including Florida, to verify their eligibility for subsidies and sign up.
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the U.S. government can no longer require nuclear power plant operators to pay fees into a nuclear waste fund, a victory for the utilities that challenged the fees. The court in Washington said the fees could not currently be justified because the government's long-stalled plan to build a national waste facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada had not come to fruition. President Barack Obama's administration has said it does not intend to pursue the decades-old proposal to build the facility. As a result of the ruling, the U.S. Energy Department must now either ask Congress to reduce the fees to zero, or produce a new legal assessment of why they are justified.