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Dem leaders: O-Care uproar is media hype

Greg Nash

Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday said the media is exaggerating public concern about ObamaCare and insisted they aren't worried the law will cost them their majority.

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Democratic leaders said voters care more about middle-class issues like raising the minimum wage, addressing college affordability, achieving paycheck parity between men and women and rebuilding infrastructure.

They expressed their frustration with reporters after a lengthy presentation on their “Fair Shot for Everyone” agenda was followed up by a salvo of questions on the implementation of ObamaCare.

“ObamaCare, if you do a poll of anyone, that’s dropped way down in significance,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

“This agenda is what the American people want to hear. You folks all want to ask about ObamaCare but the American people, most of them, are not directly affected by ObamaCare. They want to hear what we’re going to do for them,” Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third-ranking Democratic leader, told reporters.

Reid plans to set aside a week to debate and vote on each of the populist economic issues on the Democratic agenda.

The Democratic leaders argued President Obama’s decision this week to extend the enrollment deadline for the new healthcare law beyond the end of March should not be considered a delay.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) blasted the decision as a “joke” earlier in the day.

“What the hell is this, a joke?” Boehner said at his weekly press conference.

“This is part of a long-term pattern of this administration manipulating the law for its own convenience,” he added.

Reid said the real joke is Boehner’s repeated attempts to repeal the healthcare law.

“The joke I say to my dear friend John Boehner is him having more than 60 votes over there to terminate ObamaCare,” he said.

Democratic leaders say they are happy with their position seven months out from Election Day despite worrisome poll numbers, and announced plans to ramp up their offensive on populist economic issues.

“We feel very comfortable where we are, in spite of the Koch brothers with their outrageous spending,” Reid said in reference to Charles and David Koch, the libertarian industrialists who have spent about $30 million against Democratic candidates so far this election cycle.

Schumer told reporters after the press conference that the voters would be driven more by economic issues than the GOP’s criticism of healthcare reform.

“I know the media is just focused on ObamaCare but that’s not what the public’s focused on. You look at all the surveys, ObamaCare comes out sixth, seventh, eighth,” he said.

Democratic leaders assembled their middle-class agenda at the annual caucus retreat earlier this year.

Schumer held a series of phone calls and meetings with Democratic Policy and Communications Center Vice Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) ahead of the retreat to develop its points.

During the retreat, senators met in discussion groups to hammer out the planks of the agenda. Afterwards, Reid tasked Schumer with crafting a 2014 agenda.

He chose issues that would meet three criteria: resonate with middle-class voters, draw a contrast with Republicans and rev up Democratic base voters while giving ammo to Democratic incumbents running in red states.

“We are going to be introducing legislation on every one of these issues and voting on it,” Schumer said.  

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