While the House spotlights the flawed health care law rollout this week, Senate lawmakers are set to clash over confirming two new judges, with Democrats threatening Republicans with a major change that would weaken the filibuster if the GOP votes them down.
And while the Senate Democratic majority has refused to take up legislation altering the new health care law in the wake of a significantly flawed roll out, Republicans who run the House will pass their own bill to tweak the law, and likely with Democratic support.
"For the next several weeks we intend to focus our communications, legislative and oversight activities around Obamacare on the millions of Americans who are having their health insurance policies cancelled and the broken promise that 'if you like what you have, you can keep it,'" House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., outlined in a Nov. 7 memo to the House Republican conference.
The Senate fireworks could start as early as Tuesday, when the Congress returns from Veterans Day to vote on two nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Nina Pillar, a lawyer, and U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins are likely to be filibustered, according Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Republicans don't want anymore of President Obama's picks seated on the powerful court and last week blocked Obama pick Patricia Millet to fill a third vacancy.
Republicans argue that the Obama administration is stacking the court in order to expand the president's ability to legislate through the executive branch. The court's caseload, Republicans argue, does not require more judges.
But Democrats argue that there are three vacancies to fill and say Republicans are playing partisan politics, backing down on a deal cut earlier this year in which they promised not to block judicial picks.
If they stand in the way this time, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said, there would be "almost an overwhelming effort to change the rules."
Democrats are threatening the "nuclear option," in which they change the rules of the Senate and weaken the power of the minority by requiring only 51 votes, not 60, to confirm presidential nominees. Since Democrats control 55 votes, such a move would render the GOP powerless.
In the House, only a majority is needed to pass legislation and a bill to change the new health care law will easily pass with a GOP majority.
House Republican have introduced a measure that would allow people to keep into 2014 the health insurance plans they signed up for on the individual market. The "Keep Your Health Care Plan Act of 2013," authored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., will likely attract Democratic support in the House and will increase political pressure on President Obama to delay or modify the law.
The Senate's red-state Democrats who are up for re-election next year are pressuring the White House and Democratic leaders to take up similar legislation addressing the so-called grandfathered plans.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act who is running for a fourth term in 2014, said that Democrats and Obama should honor the promise they made during the yearlong debate over Obamacare. She is proposing a bill that would allow Americans who purchase insurance on the individual market to keep their plans if they want to.
Landrieu, however, blamed Republican opposition to the law for much of the problems it has faced since its Oct. 1 launch.
"Our problem is, we can't get enough Republican support to really fix it because all they want to do is close it down," Landrieu told reporters last Thursday, adding, "What I'm saying clearly is, we made this promise, the promise should be kept."
Democratic leaders so far have refused to vote a legislation to alter the law and said they believe the significant website glitches will be resolved by the end of November, enabling more people to sign up and find affordable health insurance plans.