The Democrats miscalculated in a big way in pushing Obamacare, a leading U.S. Senator has conceded.
Charles Schumer of New York is the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, behind soon-to-be Minority Leader Harry Reid and whip Dick Durbin.
Ongoing public disapproval with Obamacare partially explained the Republican landslide on November 4 that conveyed control of the Senate to the GOP and increased its hold on the House. The Democrats apparently wrongly assumed that Obamacare had receded as a hot-button political issue. Dissatisfaction with the healthcare reform law includes canceled plans, difficulties in online enrollment, and higher premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, along with limited provider networks.
Obamcare jumped back into the news after the election when videos emerged of one of its so-called architects, MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, dissing the American voter and trumpeting the law’s lack of transparency, which in his view were key elements enabling Obamacare to narrowly obtain the necessary votes in Congress. Gruber has agreed to testify at a December 9 Capitol Hill hearing, which likely will prove contentious.
First taking office in 1999, Chuck Schumer voted for Obamacare, a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act, when it reached the U.S. Senate floor and vocally defended it afterwards. Obamacare passed the Senate on Christmas Eve 2009, and the U.S. House on March 21, 2010, on a straight party line vote when both chambers were controlled by Democrats. It officially became the law of the land a few days later through a fast-tracked, parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation. No Republican voted for Obamacare.
In a speech at the National Health Club earlier this week, the very liberal Democrat acknowledged there were problems with insurance industry practices and the plight of the uninsured, but noted that the latter cohort formed only a tiny percentage of the electorate.
“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus. But unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem: healthcare reform … it wasn’t the change that we were hired to make. Americans were crying out for the end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs, not changes in healthcare. This makes sense, considering that 85 percent of all Americans go their healthcare from either the government … or their employer… so when Democrats focused on healthcare, the average middle-class person thought ‘Democrats are not paying enough attention to me.'”
Some of Schumer’s fellow Democrats did not take kindly to his remarks. “It’s a gut punch for a member of leadership who’s supposed to be our message guy to throw his colleagues under the bus like this purely for self-promotion.There’s no question the politics of ACA have been challenging, but millions of people now have health care who didn’t have it before and that’s something Democrats should be proud of and working together to defend — not using as a backboard to score cheap self-promotional points,” a senior Senate Democratic aide said, according to Politico. And former Obama staffers Tommy Vietor and Jon Favreau slammed Schumer on social media (see tweets below).
Obamacare premiums are on the rise, too, The Hill reported last week, with the lowest-cost plan due to increase 10 percent in 2015, according to the federal government’s own figures.
Do you agree with Sen. Schumer that the Democrats blew an opportunity by their single-minded focus on Obamacare?