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Democratic senator: whenever I’m asked about Russia, I’ll talk about health care first

Senators Speak To Press On President Trump's Firing Of FBI Director James Comey Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is worried that the public is not learning nearly enough about the secret Republican Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, which could cost millions of people their health insurance.

But Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is constantly being bombarded with questions from the press about the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia and the firing of FBI Director James Comey. So he’s adopted a new tactic.

“When reporters ask me a question about Russia, I now say, ‘I’m happy to talk about it, but you’re going to have to listen to me talk about the health care challenge ahead first,’” Wyden said on Thursday.

Wyden and three other Democratic senators — New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, and Massachusetts’s Ed Markey — held a press conference in the Capitol on Thursday morning to highlight the impact the rumored but still secret Senate health bill could have on victims of America’s opioid epidemic.

Others seemed open to Wyden’s idea. “Clever,” said an aide to a top Democratic senator. “Also highlights where the alleged lack of focus on health care is starting.”

Democratic senators try convincing media to focus on health care

The Democratic senators blame the media for not devoting nearly enough time and energy to covering health care.

This week, none of four of the biggest newspapers in America have put the health care bill on their front pages, and talk of the Republican health plan on cable news has slowed to a trickle, according to data from IQ Media:

The New Republic’s Jeet Heer argued Wednesday that resistance to the health bill hasn’t erupted in part because Senate Democrats have been focused on Russia. On Thursday, Senate Democrats tried redirecting the blame to the press. When I asked Markey what he would do to dramatize the stakes of the health care fight, the senator blamed the fourth estate’s attention to Trump’s tweets.

“What we’re beginning is an effort to say to the media, ‘Don’t allow the tweets to distract you from the actual Trump agenda,’ which is to gut Medicaid, take $800 billion in tax breaks, and give them to the wealthiest people in our country,” Markey said. “We hope we can redirect the attention of those who write the front pages and the editorials. Because so far, they’ve been missing the biggest story of 2017 — the destruction of the Affordable Care Act and access to health care for 23 million people.”

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