AUGUSTA — The Obama administration “screwed up” the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King said at a business event Friday night.

When it was became law in 2010, the health care law was one of President Barack Obama’s greatest achievements, but since the unsuccessful Oct. 1 rollout of its online health insurance portal, longtime Republican criticism of the law has been amplified and supporters of the law, like King, an independent from Brunswick who was elected last year and caucuses with Senate Democrats, have been miffed.

At the Maine Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner at the Augusta Civic Center, King said he tried to access the website the night it was rolled out, but it didn’t work. He said he sent a text message to a staffer saying, “if you want to know what the Soviet Union was like in the 1970s, go to this website,” because nothing worked.

On Oct. 1, the website was barely functional and not able to perform basic tasks. The federal government has made slow improvements to the site since then, and it has set a Nov. 30 goal to get it working well. But earlier this week, White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park told a House panel that by then, it “will most definitely not be perfect.”

“I’m a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, but boy, have they screwed up the implementation,” King said. “It’s really frustrating that they can’t even do a website right.”

King’s Friday night talk before the state chamber, was largely focused on his observations of the legislative process in Washington in his first year of service.

In common King refrains, he bemoaned a hyper-partisan atmosphere and decried what he called an overabundance of money in politics. But he said when it comes to personal relationships, the Senate isn’t terribly partisan.

Earlier this year, King said his wife, Mary, texted him after seeing him on C-Span having a conversation with another senator while the Senate was on break: She asked why King was talking with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the firebrand conservative who has been the loudest voice of opposition to Obama’s policies, especially the Affordable Care Act.

King said the heightened partisanship in Washington is because of pressure put on Republican senators and representatives because of the threat of primaries from potential far-right adversaries in their states. That dissuades them from negotiating with Democrats on many issues, he said.

The Maine senator recalled a conversation he had with a very conservative senator from a Western state, where King asked the other senator what a potential far-right opponent could possibly charge him with, because he was “the most conservative guy” around Washington.

“They’re going to charge me with being reasonable, with listening,” King quoted the other senator as saying.

That attitude subverts the process, King said, and he’s worried that the attitude could spill over into Democratic primaries soon as well.

“If being reasonable is an offense, do you see what that does to the process?” King said. “By definition, you can’t make deals with somebody who is going to be punished for just the act of entering the negotiation.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652[email protected]Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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