Schumer: Democrats' top priority is health care, not Russia

Senate Minority Leader Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) leaves a weekly meeting with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill July 18, 2017 in Washington, DC. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Story highlights

  • Democrats on Monday presented a new economic message
  • Schumer said blame for the party's 2016 losses is wide-ranging

Washington (CNN)Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, denied Monday that his party is overly fixated on Russia as Democrats rolled out a new campaign focused on economics.

Schumer, in an interview for CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper," said the party's primary concerns are health care and "the economic well-being of the working family" -- not the various investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
"Those are our two big focuses," Schumer said. "Obviously Russia is in the news. Obviously we want Bob Mueller to be able to pursue and our committees to be able to pursue their investigations unimpeded."
    But Schumer did allow that the party has had a longstanding messaging problem and needs to make its economic agenda known. The Senate's minority leader was speaking from Berryville, Virginia, just after joining other Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to unveil the party's new agenda, titled "A Better Deal." He said because of his focus on the rollout, he had not kept up with the comments about Russia from Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and top adviser to President Donald Trump, or Trump's own tweet calling Attorney General Jeff Sessions "beleaguered."
    Schumer said moving forward, Democrats will focus on health care, jobs training and breaking up monopolies, and that the party would "fill this agenda out" further in coming months.
    The new agenda is a reaction to systemic issues in the Democratic Party's outreach efforts, Schumer said, avoiding pointing specifically to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
    "It's not just 2016. It's 2014 as well," Schumer said. "The blame goes all around, and the bottom line is people didn't know what we stood for."
    When Tapper pointed to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll that found most people think the Democrats stood against Trump as opposed to "for something," Schumer reiterated his point and explained the new campaign is intended to demonstrate the party has a real economic agenda.
    "I'm not going to point any specific fingers," Schumer said. "We're all to blame, but what you said, that 52% of Americans don't know what we stand for, that changes today."