Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the timing of passing Obamacare was wrong. Reuters / Yuri Gripas

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized his own party Tuesday, saying Democrats “blew the opportunity the American people gave them” in the 2008 elections by focusing on health care reform rather than middle-class-oriented programs. Schumer said pursuing the passage of the Affordable Care Act was “the wrong problem” and a political blunder for the Democratic Party.

“Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs, not for changes in their health care,” Schumer said Tuesday during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington. According to Schumer, 85 percent of Americans already had health insurance through Medicare, Medicaid or an employer prior to the Affordable Care Act -- which is why the average middle-class person felt neglected when President Barack Obama focused Democratic efforts on reforming health care in 2009.

Schumer said the nation’s health care system needed to be addressed, but it was the wrong move strategically. “We should have done it. We just shouldn’t have done it first,” he said.

Schumer, along with a slew of other Senate Democrats, voted for the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare. He has said he is “proud to support” the health care reform legislation, which aims to provide affordable health insurance to more Americans. However, Schumer said Tuesday, he had expressed concern to his Democratic colleagues before the bill was signed into law in 2010.

Republicans attacked Democratic incumbents in the midterm elections for backing the faulty health care law, which Schumer said fueled the GOP’s landslide victory. “Democrats lost in 2014 because the government made mistakes that eroded the electorate’s confidence in its ability to improve the lives of the middle class,” said Schumer, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat.

Schumer said to win in 2016, Democrats must refocus efforts on boosting the economy and bettering the lives of everyday Americans.