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Senate Democrats Plan Obamacare PR Counteroffensive

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A group of Senate Democrats is expected to launch a counteroffensive in favor of Obamacare on Wednesday, a response to the persistent attacks on the law from their Republican counterparts.  

Democrats discussed the new endeavor touting benefits of the Affordable Care Act during Tuesday’s weekly caucus lunch to a warm reception, according to Connecticut’s Christopher S. Murphy, who is one of the senators leading the effort. A Senate Democratic aide said the formal rollout will come Wednesday.  

“This is about making sure that the Republicans … aren’t trashing the ACA in a vacuum, that there is a real public perception that Democrats still believe in this law, because we do,” Murphy said. “I think when Democrats are silent, people have a right to wonder whether we still believe in the ACA, and the answer is we absolutely do, but we can show that in our conduct on the floor, in social media and in front of the press.”  

On Tuesday, Republicans offered a series of floor speeches and statements criticizing the Obama administration for proposed cutbacks to payments to Medicare Advantage under the health care overhaul law that the administration announced late last week. They also cited concerns about the proposed policy changes raised by 19 Democratic senators.  

“Now we have a number of Democrats led by Chuck Schumer, and I call them Obamacrats because they are people who voted for Obamacare … and now are running for cover by writing a letter to the president saying don’t cut Medicare Advantage,” Wyoming Republican John Barrasso said at a Tuesday news conference, for instance. “But in fact these are all senators who voted for the health care law and took a lot of money from Medicare and our seniors. Not to strengthen Medicare and Medicare Advantage, but to start a whole new government program for other people.”  

Republican leaders also sent a new letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging a suspension of Medicare Advantage and prescription drug program changes.  

It’s exactly that sort of campaign that Murphy and other Senate Democrats intend to launch on their own.  

“I think there’s some frustration at the effort being organized up the street,” Murphy said. “I think there’s a belief that we need to sort of … take the initiative in our own hands.”  

“We’ve got probably 20 or so senators that are going to be actively involved in it and others that’ll kind of plug in … when it makes sense,” Murphy said.  

“There’s going to be a coordinated effort amongst Democratic senators to explain benefits of the ACA and push back on Republicans who, you know, are down on the floor in numbers that dwarf us,” Murphy said in a brief interview. “There’s good enthusiasm in the caucus for it.”  

Murphy said that Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan would also be involved in spearheading the pro-Affordable Care Act operation, which aims to be “more vocal” about positive developments in implementing the health care law.  

“The Republicans have been very coordinated. In the last full week before the break, Republicans gave nine speeches on the floor trashing the ACA, Democrats gave two in support of it,” Murphy said. “They sent out 88 Tweets criticizing the ACA, we sent out 17.”  

Murphy said the White House and outside stakeholders are on board, but the group has yet to coordinate with their counterparts in the House Democratic caucus.  

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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