Chuck Schumer: Passing Obamacare in 2010 Was a Mistake

The Senate’s No. 3 Democrat says that his party misused its mandate.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), center, with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), left, speaks at a press conference to urge the House to enact immigration reform at the U.S. Capitol on May 22, 2014 in Washington, DC. Senate democrats called out House Speaker John Boehner for letting nearly a year pass without taking action since the Senate sent over a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
Nov. 25, 2014, 7:02 a.m.

Sen. Chuck Schu­mer up­braided his own party Tues­day for push­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act through Con­gress in 2010.

While Schu­mer em­phas­ized dur­ing a speech at the Na­tion­al Press Club that he sup­ports the law and that its policies “are and will con­tin­ue to be pos­it­ive changes,” he ar­gued that the Demo­crats ac­ted wrongly in us­ing their new man­date after the 2008 elec­tion to fo­cus on the is­sue rather than the eco­nomy at the height of a ter­rible re­ces­sion.

“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,” Schu­mer said. “We took their man­date and put all of our fo­cus on the wrong prob­lem—health care re­form.”

The third-rank­ing Sen­ate Demo­crat noted that just about 5 per­cent of re­gistered voters in the United States lacked health in­sur­ance be­fore the im­ple­ment­a­tion of the law, ar­guing that to fo­cus on a prob­lem af­fect­ing such “a small per­cent­age of the elect­or­al made no polit­ic­al sense.”

The lar­ger prob­lem, af­fect­ing most Amer­ic­ans, he said, was a poor eco­nomy res­ult­ing from the re­ces­sion. “When Demo­crats fo­cused on health care, the av­er­age middle-class per­son thought, ‘The Demo­crats aren’t pay­ing enough at­ten­tion to me,’ ” Schu­mer said.

The health care law should have come later, Schu­mer ar­gued, after Demo­crats had passed le­gis­la­tion to help the middle class weath­er the re­ces­sion. Had Demo­crats pushed eco­nom­ic le­gis­la­tion, he said, “the middle class would have been more re­cept­ive to the idea that Pres­id­ent Obama wanted to help them” and, in turn, they would have been more re­cept­ive to the health care law.

Schu­mer said he told fel­low Demo­crats in the lead-up to the pas­sage of the Af­ford­able Care Act that it was the wrong time to pass the law.

“People thought—and I un­der­stand this—lots of people thought this was the only time to do this, it’s very im­port­ant to do. And we should have done it. We just shouldn’t have done it first,” he said. “We were in the middle of a re­ces­sion. People were hurt­ing and say­ing, ‘What about me? I’m los­ing my job. It’s not health care that both­ers me. What about me?’ “¦ About 85 per­cent of all Amer­ic­ans were fine with their health care in 2009, mainly be­cause it was paid for by either the gov­ern­ment or their em­ploy­er, private sec­tor. So they wer­en’t clam­or­ing. The av­er­age middle-class voter, they wer­en’t op­posed to do­ing health care when it star­ted out, but it wasn’t at the top of the agenda.”

Schu­mer blamed the push for the Af­ford­able Care Act so early in Obama’s first term for the rise of the tea-party move­ment, which des­troyed the Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity in the House in 2010 and went on to—long with a num­ber of oth­er mis­steps by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing im­ple­ment­a­tion of the law—oust the Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity in the Sen­ate as well in 2014.

×