WASHINGTON -- WASHINGTON (AP) — Frustrated Democrats lamented Wednesday that persistent problems with new health care exchanges have inflicted damage on the public's perception of the already unpopular "Obamacare" — with some lawmakers insisting President Barack Obama should ensure those responsible lose their jobs.

Emerging from a closed-door briefing with health officials from the Obama administration, House Democrats appeared to have at least as many questions as answers about how and when the beleaguered website will be fixed. Although they resolved not to let setbacks with one aspect of the health law outshine the parts that are working, they griped that the shoddy website had given Republicans an opening to do just that.

"I think the president needs to man up, find out who was responsible and fire them," Rep. Richard Nolan, D-Minn., said after the briefing. He said Obama should tell Democrats when the problems will be fixed so they can prepare to move on. "You don't get many second chances to get a good first impression."

Nolan wasn't the only one.

"Somebody should be held accountable," said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. "Absolutely."

The briefing with House Democrats came as the Obama administration is appealing to its allies in Congress, on Wall Street and across the country to stick with the health care law despite embarrassing problems that continue to crop up. On Wednesday, lawmakers heard from Gary Cohen and Julie Bataille, two high-level officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency with major responsibility for the website where millions of Americans are expected to purchase insurance.

Democrats say they requested the briefing. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said House Republicans were arranging to hold a similar briefing with health officials in the coming days.

Echoing Democratic leaders and even Obama himself, Democrats said it was unacceptable that the website's debut had been so flawed. But Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said it was critical Democrats not lose sight of the bigger picture and law's other benefits.

"It's regrettable. It can't be accepted. Gotta move on," DeLauro said.

Obama has turned to longtime adviser Jeffrey Zients, a veteran management consultant, to provide advice to help fix the system. And Obama has said he's instituted a "tech surge," bringing in leading technology talent to repair the painfully slow and often unresponsive website. But the administration has repeatedly declined to say how long that will take, raising questions about whether the full extent of the problems has been fully determined.

"They were reluctant to give a date — I don't blame them — on the fixes," said Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill. But they said the problems would be fixed in time for people to get enrolled by Jan. 1, the day that coverage through the exchanges begins.

The website's troubled debut was overshadowed by the partial government shutdown that started the same day the website went live. Last week, Obama and Democrats walked away from a no-holds-barred fight with Republicans over debt and spending with a remarkable degree of unity, made all the more prominent by the deep GOP divisions the standoff revealed.

The debt-and-spending crisis averted for now, the spotlight has shifted to Obama's health care law and the web-based exchanges, beset by malfunctions, where Americans are supposed to be able to shop for insurance. The intensified focus has increased the pressure on Democrats to distance themselves from Obama's handling of the website's rollout as both parties demand to know what went wrong and why.

As the administration races to fix the website, it's deploying the president and top officials to urge his supporters not to give up.

"By now you have probably heard that the website has not worked as smoothly as it was supposed to," Obama said Tuesday in a video message recorded for Organizing for America, a nonprofit group whose mission is to support Obama's agenda. "But we've got people working overtime in a tech surge to boost capacity and address the problems. And we are going to get it fixed."

The group has been organizing a multitude of events and social media campaigns around the health care law's implementation. OFA said those efforts will continue, but the group isn't adjusting its strategy in response to the website's issues.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden and top White House officials held a call with business leaders Tuesday about the health law and other issues. Business Forward, a trade group friendly to the White House, said the administration asked the group to invite leaders to hear directly from Biden.

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Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

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Follow Josh Lederman at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

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  • 1912

    Former President Theodore Roosevelt champions national health insurance as he unsuccessfully tries to ride his progressive Bull Moose Party back to the White House. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

  • 1935

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt favors creating national health insurance amid the Great Depression but decides to push for Social Security first. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1942

    Roosevelt establishes wage and price controls during World War II. Businesses can't attract workers with higher pay so they compete through added benefits, including health insurance, which grows into a workplace perk. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 1945

    President Harry Truman calls on Congress to create a national insurance program for those who pay voluntary fees. The American Medical Association denounces the idea as "socialized medicine" and it goes nowhere. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1960

    John F. Kennedy makes health care a major campaign issue but as president can't get a plan for the elderly through Congress. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1965

    President Lyndon B. Johnson's legendary arm-twisting and a Congress dominated by his fellow Democrats lead to creation of two landmark government health programs: Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1974

    President Richard Nixon wants to require employers to cover their workers and create federal subsidies to help everyone else buy private insurance. The Watergate scandal intervenes. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1976

    President Jimmy Carter pushes a mandatory national health plan, but economic recession helps push it aside. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • 1986

    President Ronald Reagan signs COBRA, a requirement that employers let former workers stay on the company health plan for 18 months after leaving a job, with workers bearing the cost. (MIKE SARGENT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1988

    Congress expands Medicare by adding a prescription drug benefit and catastrophic care coverage. It doesn't last long. Barraged by protests from older Americans upset about paying a tax to finance the additional coverage, Congress repeals the law the next year. (TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1993

    President Bill Clinton puts first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge of developing what becomes a 1,300-page plan for universal coverage. It requires businesses to cover their workers and mandates that everyone have health insurance. The plan meets Republican opposition, divides Democrats and comes under a firestorm of lobbying from businesses and the health care industry. It dies in the Senate. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1997

    Clinton signs bipartisan legislation creating a state-federal program to provide coverage for millions of children in families of modest means whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. (JAMAL A. WILSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2003

    President George W. Bush persuades Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in a major expansion of the program for older people. (STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2008

    Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes a sweeping health care plan in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She loses to Obama, who has a less comprehensive plan. (PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2009

    President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress spend an intense year ironing out legislation to require most companies to cover their workers; mandate that everyone have coverage or pay a fine; require insurance companies to accept all comers, regardless of any pre-existing conditions; and assist people who can't afford insurance. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • 2010

    With no Republican support, Congress passes the measure, designed to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. Republican opponents scorned the law as "Obamacare." (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • 2012

    On a campaign tour in the Midwest, Obama himself embraces the term "Obamacare" and says the law shows "I do care." (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)