WASHINGTON Feb 9 Democrats sought to turn the
latest controversy over Obamacare and the economy into a
positive political message on Sunday by casting an expected
decline in American work hours as a boon to worker freedom and
In a new partisan tussle over election messaging that is
likely to color this year's congressional mid-term campaign,
Democratic lawmakers said a predicted drop in work hours brought
about by Obamacare would mean more family time for mothers, more
study opportunities for college students and less job stress for
"The single mom, who's raising three kids (and) has to keep
a job because of healthcare, can now spend some time raising
those kids. That's a family value," Democratic Senator Charles
Schumer said on NBC's Sunday program, "Meet the Press."
He was responding to a fiscal report from the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Tuesday that said President
Barack Obama's healthcare law would bring about a drop in work
hours equal to the loss of 2.5 million full-time workers over
the next decade.
The change would occur because some workers, particularly
those with lower wages, would limit their hours to avoid losing
federal subsidies that Obamacare provides to help pay for health
insurance and other healthcare costs, according to CBO.
Republicans have seized on the CBO report to help support
their own messaging campaign for middle-class voters, calling
its contents evidence that Obama's signature domestic policy
achievement will reduce full-time employment and hurt the
economy unless it is repealed.
Both parties are working to craft messages on a range of
issues that can turn out the vote of loyal constituencies in
November's off-year election, which will determine who controls
the Senate and House of Representatives in the final two years
of the Obama presidency.
A chief aim of Republicans is to gain control of the Senate
by using Obamacare's unpopularity with voters to discourage
support for vulnerable Democrats in states with large
Democrats have emphasized the law's benefits for people who
are sick, nearing retirement, starting a career or trying to
finish up college. Obama has also challenged Republicans to come
up with their own reforms.
Republicans, who have voted more than 40 times in the House
to repeal or defund Obamacare, have also decided to seek their
own cure. But a single plan for an alternative
healthcare policy has proved elusive so far.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires most
Americans to be enrolled in health coverage by March 31 or pay a
penalty. It has already extended health coverage to millions of
Americans by offering subsidized private plans and expanding the
Medicaid program for the poor in participating states.
The CBO said the subsidies, which help people pay health
insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, would "reduce
incentives to work" and impose an "implicit tax on working" for
those returning to a job with health insurance.
"Any law you pass that discourages people from working can't
be a good idea. Why would we want to do that? Why would we think
that was a good thing? How does that allow people to prepare
for the time when they don't work?" Senator Roy Blunt, a
Missouri Republican, said on "Fox News Sunday."
But Democrats refused to say the report put them on the
defensive politically. Schumer likened the prospect of fewer
work hours to the adoption of the 40-hour work week in the 20th
century, which he described as a benefit that also reduced work
"This is a good thing," said Representative Keith Ellison, a
Minnesota Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive
"We need a better work-life balance. Ask a working mother if
she could use a few more hours in a day to take care of her
family," he told ABC's "This Week".
Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who appeared
alongside Ellison on ABC, dismissed the argument out of hand.
"It's great spin. I don't think it's going to work," he
(Editing by Jim Loney; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)