NBC Reporter Tries to Blame House GOP for ObamaCare Website Failure

In an interview with Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn on Wednesday's MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports, fill-in host and NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker desperately attempted to blame Republicans for the disastrous ObamaCare website rollout: "Congress repeatedly refused to authorize requests by the Obama administration for additional funding for the rollout of the health care law. Administration officials say that funding potentially could have made a difference. So does Congress, do your colleagues bear any responsibility for this rocky rollout for refusing that funding?" [Listen to the audio]

Blackburn easily dismissed the absurd notion with a fact check: "I would remind you that most website developers say an aggregator website, such as what healthcare.gov is, could be built easily for a half a million dollars. They have spent a half a billion dollars."

On Tuesday's NBC Today, correspondent Tom Costello similarly pointed out the abnormally large sum of taxpayer money wasted on the non-functioning healthcare.gov: "Apple spent about $150 million to roll out the iPhone, the first one. They've already spent $400 million on this website."

Prior to her exchange with Blackburn on Wednesday, Welker teed up a sound bite from Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: "House Republican leaders are continuing to dig in on the issue of defunding ObamaCare as Democratic leaders say the law is here to stay."

In part, Schultz declared: "You know, what we need congressional Republicans to do is to work with us, find – let's achieve some common ground here. Let's all agree that ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act, is settled law."

Turning to Blackburn, Welker began:

So I want to pick off where you just heard Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz leaving off. She says that you're so focused on tearing down health care, but look, it's the law now. Why not work with Democrats to try to improve it? Why not put some tweaks on the table that might make it stronger? Why continue to try to tear it down? An effort that hasn't borne fruit to date. 

Later, after Blackburn rebuffed the idea that congressional Republicans were somehow to blame for the ObamaCare website not working, Welker decided to change topics and bash the GOP over the government shutdown: "...if you look at the polls, a majority of Americans say that that was the Republicans' fault, they're blaming your party for the government shutdown....So is the Tea Party strategy dividing your party, weakening it, and is it failing essentially?"

Blackburn began to answer: "I think what you're seeing is a big tent on the conservative side of the House, if you will. And by that I mean through conservative America." Welker interrupted: "Some people have described it as a civil war, Congresswoman. Some people have described it as a civil war." Blackburn replied:

No, it is not a civil war. Well, and I would just caution you that what you see is the American people are less partisan than ever. More of them have less affiliation with either Democrats or Republicans. They're more independent. They're more independent-minded.

And what we are seeing is people have turned their focus to the debt, now over $17 trillion, to the annual deficit, to the rising cost of ObamaCare. Both from what it will cost government as an entity and what it is going to cost the private sector.

Here is a full transcript of the October 23 exchange:

KRISTEN WELKER: House Republican leaders are continuing to dig in on the issue of defunding ObamaCare as Democratic leaders say the law is here to stay.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ [DNC CHAIRWOMAN]: You know, what we need congressional Republicans to do is to work with us, find – let's achieve some common ground here. Let's all agree that ObamaCare, the Affordable Care Act, is settled law. Let's – as problems arise, let's work together to iron those out.

WELKER: Joining me now from Capitol Hill is Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. Thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it, Congresswoman.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN [R-TN]: Sure, absolutely. Thank you.

WELKER: So I want to pick off where you just heard Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz leaving off. She says that you're so focused on tearing down health care, but look, it's the law now. Why not work with Democrats to try to improve it? Why not put some tweaks on the table that might make it stronger? Why continue to try to tear it down? An effort that hasn't borne fruit to date.  

BLACKBURN: What we're continuing to do is work with our constituents as they come into us with story after story after story of increased insurance rates, of failures with the healthcare.gov site, and to work with them on where the problems are, the systemic problems, the access problems that they are seeing with this.

And our committee will begin tomorrow a series of hearings. We're going to have the contractors in front of us at the Energy and Commerce Committee. And people can follow that hearing. We're going to have it via our website, Blackburn.House.gov, Facebook and Twitter.

And by the way, I also have a video that people can go to Facebook and our website and they'll be able to pull up what has happened to some of these individuals that are trying to carry out a chat. We have that live on our website. So your viewers may want to go to that-

WELKER: Congresswoman, let me just – let me just ask you quickly on that point of the hearings. What specifically do you want to hear tomorrow, do you need to hear tomorrow in those hearings from the contractors about the health care website?

BLACKBURN: What we're seeking to do is find out what went wrong. Because there is a tremendous amount of federal taxpayer money – taxpayer money – that has been wasted on building a site and we want to know how it went so wrong, why they did not certify to us, as they were supposed to, that it was ready. They did not do that. We want to find out about the privacy issues and what is happening with individuals' information. Is this compliant with all federal rules, regulations, and laws?

WELKER: Congresswoman, I want to ask you-

BLACKBURN: So those are questions we'll ask this week and next week also.

WELKER: Alright, I want to ask you about this point, because Congress repeatedly refused to authorize requests by the Obama administration for additional funding for the rollout of the health care law. Administration officials say that funding potentially could have made a difference. So does Congress, do your colleagues bear any responsibility for this rocky rollout for refusing that funding?

BLACKBURN: I would remind you that most website developers say an aggregator website, such as what healthcare.gov is, could be built easily for a half a million dollars. They have spent a half a billion dollars.

Like so many issues, when it comes to the federal government, money is not the problem. But making certain that you are effective, efficient, that you're meeting timelines, that is the problem. That is what they did not do here. What we're seeking to do is find out where's the glitch on this? Was it HHS? Was it the contractors? Was it a lack of understanding?

And people are very confused by what is happening with healthcare.gov. They're very confused by this process. The uncertainty that it is with our employers, is they are trying to meet the needs of their employees. We hear about this every day.

People can even go to GOP.gov and enter their story of what has happened to them as they have tried to interface. We are looking at these and every single day we get dozens of stories from people who have been adversely impacted by this law. And bear in mind also, this was to be a $900 billion access-to-insurance program.

WELKER: Congresswoman, let me shift-

BLACKBURN: It has become a $2.6 trillion program that is affecting every part of health care insurance and delivery.

WELKER: Congresswoman, let me shift – let me shift to the fallout from the government shutdown. Because if you look at the polls, a majority of Americans say that that was the Republicans' fault, they're blaming your party for the government shutdown. And here is what Senator John McCain had to say yesterday.

JOHN MCCAIN: I, who fought when they weren't even in the Senate, not even members of the Senate, fought for 25 days against ObamaCare, okay? And so I'll take a backseat to nobody who fought against ObamaCare, but I know – I'm an old military guy – I know when a mission can succeed and I know when it can't. And it couldn't succeed.

WELKER: So is the Tea Party strategy dividing your party, weakening it, and is it failing essentially?

BLACKBURN: I think what you're seeing is a big tent on the conservative side of the House, if you will. And by that I mean...

WELKER: Some people have described it as a civil war, Congresswoman.

BLACKBURN: ...through conservative America.

WELKER: Some people have described it as a civil war.

BLACKBURN: No, it is not a civil war. Well, and I would just caution you that what you see is the American people are less partisan than ever. More of them have less affiliation with either Democrats or Republicans. They're more independent. They're more independent-minded.

And what we are seeing is people have turned their focus to the debt, now over $17 trillion, to the annual deficit, to the rising cost of ObamaCare. Both from what it will cost government as an entity and what it is going to cost the private sector.

And I think that what we will do is continue to hear diverse opinions as to how we go about addressing this. My hope is that we're going to be more strategic and focused as we look for a way to address the long-term deficit and debt issues that are affecting this nation.

WELKER: Alright. Congresswoman Blackburn, we appreciate your time this afternoon. Thank you.

BLACKBURN: Absolutely. Thank you so much.

— Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.