Schumer: Dems erred with ObamaCare

Schumer: Dems erred with ObamaCare
© Getty Images

Democrats made a strategic mistake by passing the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, said Tuesday.

Schumer says Democrats “blew the opportunity the American people gave them” in the 2008 elections, a Democratic landslide, by focusing on healthcare reform instead of legislation to boost the middle class.


“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus,” he said in a speech at the National Press Club.

He said the plight of uninsured Americans caused by “unfair insurance company practices” needed to be addressed, but it wasn’t the change that people wanted when they elected Barack Obama as president.

“Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs; not for changes in their healthcare,” he said.

He noted that 85 percent of all Americans got their healthcare from either the government, through Medicare or Medicaid, or through an employer.

“So when Democrats focused on healthcare, the average middle class person thought, ‘the Democrats are not paying enough attention to me,’ ” he said. 

Schumer's concession is a striking change of tone from what he said shortly after the passage of the healthcare law, when he predicted that ObamaCare would turn out to be a strong political issue for his party. 

“I predict … by November those who voted for healthcare will find it an asset, those who voted against it will find it a liability,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in March 2010.

A slew of Senate Democrats, including Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Mark Udall (Colo.), who voted for the bill, however, ended up losing in 2010 or 2014. Republicans attacked them constantly for voting for ObamaCare, an attack that became more potent after the law’s error-prone rollout. 

On Tuesday, Schumer said that behind the scenes, he told other Democratic Party leaders that they should have focused on jobs and the economy instead of ObamaCare.