WASHINGTON - Under growing pressure, the administration refused repeatedly to state a position Tuesday on legislation formalizing President Barack Obama's oft-stated promise that people who like their existing coverage should be allowed to keep it under the new health care law.
Senate Democrats spoke dismissively of the proposals, signaling they have no intention of permitting a vote on the issue that marks the latest challenge confronting supporters of "Obamacare."
An earlier controversy appeared to be ebbing on a law that has generated more than its share of them. Even so, one strong supporter of the health care law, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R. I., good-naturedly told an administration official, "Good luck getting through this mess."
Whitehouse spoke to Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the agency deeply involved in implementing the law. She had assured lawmakers that initial flaws with the government's website were systematically yielding to around-the-clock repair effort.
"Users can now successfully create an account and continue through the full application and enrollment process," said Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "We are now able to process nearly 17,000 registrants per hour, or 5 per second, with almost no errors."
She encouraged consumers to log onto the site and check it out, and said the administration had estimated that enrollments will total 800,000 by the end of November.
At the same time, she repeatedly refused to tell inquiring Republicans how many enrollments have taken place to date, saying that information would be made available at mid-month.
Across the Capitol, that reluctance drew a subpoena from Rep. Dave Camp, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. He said the material was "critical government information" that the administration has refused to provide voluntarily, and demanded that it be turned over by Friday.
In response, a CMS spokeswoman, Tasha Bradley, said: "We have received the subpoena and are committed to working with the committee to accommodate their interest in this issue." She did not explicitly pledge compliance.
In her testimony, Tavenner also sought to reassure lawmakers who expressed concerns about cybersecurity at www.healthcare.gov.