WASHINGTON — Criticism of President Obama’s signature health care law by a top Senate Democrat this week laid bare post-election tensions that could pose challenges for the party in upcoming fights with Republicans over taxes, energy and immigration.
In a high-profile speech on Tuesday dissecting Democrats’ losses in this month’s midterm elections, Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, listed “a cascade of issues” botched by the White House, starting with Obama’s push for healthcare reforms soon after he took office in 2009.
Later on Tuesday, the White House took the unusual step of publicly pledging to veto a deal on tax breaks that Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was trying to hammer out with Republicans in the House of Representatives.
“There is clearly a lot of unhappiness and a lot of mistrust that exists between the president and his congressional party,” said Ross Baker, political scientist at Rutgers University.
In some ways, Schumer’s remarks were typical of the kind of “post-disaster syndrome” of finger-pointing common after election losses, Baker said.
“Typically, when a political party has suffered an electoral debacle, one of the first things they do is shoot the survivors,” he said.
According to Schumer, the party lost because the White House messed up on “a cascade of issues,” starting with the health care reform push in 2009, at a time when Americans were more preoccupied with the recession.
Also on Schumer’s list of White House errors: the rollout of insurance marketplaces, fixing wait lists for veterans’ hospitals, dealing with the first case of Ebola in the United States and even security at the White House.
Former Obama aides dismissed Schumer’s comments as playing politics.
“Funny, I don’t remember Chuck Schumer giving that advice when he was privately and publicly championing the Affordable Care Act in 2010,” said Jon Favreau, a former White House speechwriter, on Twitter.
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi also rebuked Schumer, saying in a statement, “We come here to do a job, not keep a job.”