WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader got into a bit of a tiff with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough at a lunch on Capitol Hill today over Obamacare messaging.
At a lunch with the New Democrat Coalition — a group of moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill — McDonough attempted to go over various data points about slowing cost growth in health care and different pieces of good news coming out of Obamacare. Schrader, however, tried to say none of that actually mattered when constituents were coming to him to complain about premium increases.
Sources described McDonough as being dismissive of Schrader's point. Schrader confirmed the details to BuzzFeed and, dripping with sarcasm, said "I'm sure he knows best."
"They feel confident about it, I'm not sure I share their approach and was told so," he said. "I'm sure he knows best. I'm just a little country veterinarian from a small town in the great state of Oregon. So what do I know? I'm from a marginal district that they need to have that talks to people on a regular basis. Whatever."
Schrader said his larger point to McDonough was that the White House was not doing enough to communicate about subsidy eligibility which would defray the cost of premiums for a lot of people that are experiencing sticker shock.
"What's not being told because of the roll out issue is how most people in America, 70 percent in my state, can qualify for subsidies. And they'll experience a lot less of an increase and that's the goal of the ACA in the long run is to minimize the increase in a long run," he said.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
Several other members of the New Democrat Coalition described the meeting as "honest" but otherwise cordial.
"I was there, I listened to the exchange. There was nothing personal between the two. Kurt was making a point and Denis was making his point," said Rep. Ron Kind, who chairs the group. "I didn't see anything out of the ordinary or extraordinary. These are frank conversations we need to have. I thought it was a good, healthy exchange as the whole meeting was. That's exactly what you want in those types of meetings, you don't want people holding back. You got a point to make, make it. And you expect the other side to respond. I don't think any of us felt like it was extraordinary.
"I view it as very refreshing when you can have conversations at that level with that degree of honesty...Kurt's a great member. This is why we love having him in the coalition," Kind added.
Update: This post has been updated with comment from New Democrat Coalition chairman Ron Kind.
Kate Nocera is the DC Bureau Chief for BuzzFeed News. Nocera is a recipient of the National Press Foundation's 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting on Congress.
Contact Kate Nocera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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