After unity, some Democrats push back on Obama over health care, spying and more

By Jim Kuhnhenn

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 31 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Democrats who have talked to White House officials in recent days describe them as rattled by the health care blunders. But they say they are confident that the troubled website used for enrollment will be corrected and fully operational by the end of November.

The spying revelations also have created some tensions between the administration and Democrats. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and until now a staunch supporter of the NSA's surveillance, called for a "total review of all intelligence programs" following the Merkel reports.

She said that when it came to the NSA collecting intelligence on the leaders of allies such as France, Spain, Mexico and Germany, "Let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed."

In the House, Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, a Democratic member of the House intelligence committee, complained that the intelligence committees had been kept out of the loop about the collection of data on foreign leaders.

"Why did we not know that heads of state were being eavesdropped on, spied on?" she asked Obama administration intelligence officials on Tuesday. "We are the Intelligence Committee. And we did not — we didn't know that. And now all of us, all of us, are dealing with a problem in our international relations. There will be changes."

With Congress renewing budget talks Wednesday, liberals have been outspoken in their insistence that Democrats vigorously resist efforts to reduce long-term deficits with savings in Social Security or Medicare. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who usually votes with Democrats, has been the most outspoken, saying he fears a budget deal will contain a proposal in Obama's budget to reduce cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and other benefit programs.

Obama, however, has proposed that remedy only if Republicans agree to raise tax revenue, a bargain that GOP lawmakers involved in the discussions made clear they would reject. Moreover, leaders from both parties as well as White House officials have signaled that in budget talks, they are looking for a small budget deal, not the type of "grand bargain" that would embrace such a revenue-for-benefit-cuts deal.

Still, many liberals warn that such cuts aren't palatable even if coupled with additional revenues.

"The idea, the notion that we're going to solve this problem or it's going to be OK if we were able to raise revenue and cut this thing back at the same time, it just isn't going to fly outside of Washington," said Jim Dean, chairman of the liberal advocacy group Democracy for America.

Follow Jim Kuhnhenn at http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn

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