Schumer: 'Number 1 Issue in 2014 Is Not Going to Be Obamacare...'

By Susan Jones | December 23, 2013 | 7:49 AM EST

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) (AP File Photo)

( - Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says President Obama is not undermining the Affordable Care Act by granting a "hardship exemption" to Americans who lost their individual health care policies because of the law.

A hardship exemption means they will not be penalized right away for failing to sign up on the new health care exchanges.

"The president is working to fix it," Schumer told NBC's "Meet the Press" with David Gregory on Sunday. "The bottom line is, there are a lot of good things in Obamacare that people like, and the more people see that, the more positive it's going to be.

"And I would just say one other thing, with all the focus on Obamacare, David. The number one issue in the 2014 election is not going to be Obamacare or the deficit. It is going to be who can get the middle class going again, who can expand middle class incomes, who can create jobs. That is far and away the issue that most Americans care about."

Appearing with Schumer, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said Republicans "ought to talk about health care and what we're for, rather than continuing to talk about what we're against.

"Look, Obamacare right now causes people to spend more money, have less choice, have a higher deductible and have less freedom. The roll-out and the ideas behind the fact that the federal government could manage appropriately one-sixth of the economy is proving itself erroneous," Coburn said.

"What I would say is, we need to change health care, but what they've done -- you can't fix this mess. The insurance industry, the indemnification industry, regardless of what you think about the insurance companies, it is on its ear now."

Coburn said everyone who lost a high-deductible insurance policy and dutifully signed up on the Obamacare exchanges should cancel their new policies and demand a hardship exemption of their own.