WASHINGTON — Majority Leader Harry Reid, angered by a new round of anti-Obamacare ads he called "lies," condemned the Koch brothers as "un-American" on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Reid's remarks attacking the billionaire Republican contributors Charles and David Koch reflect Democrats' increasing concern that the spending by outside groups like Americans for Prosperity against Democratic candidates could cost the party its Senate majority.
The Nevada Democrat, in the first of two floor speeches on the subject Wednesday, questioned the veracity of new advertisements from Koch-backed groups that feature individuals sharing stories about the apparent hardships they've faced because of the Affordable Care Act.
One features a Michigan resident who said she was fighting leukemia and had her insurance canceled because of the new law. The woman says Rep. Gary Peters' vote to pass the law "jeopardized my health." Peters is the Democratic candidate for Michigan's open Senate seat.
Reid called that ads "absolutely false," and said it was part of an effort by the Koch brothers to "buy" the election.
But he returned to the floor hours later with a hint of a retraction, saying he was not in position to say that all ads from the group were lies — only "the vast, vast majority of them."
But he went further in attacking the ads' fiscal backers.
"It's time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers, who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine," Reid said.
In a statement, a Koch official said they were "disappointed, but not surprised" that Reid was again attacking them.
"We believe it is disgraceful that Sen. Reid and his fellow Democrats are attacking a cancer victim as part of their campaign against Charles Koch and David Koch," said Philip Ellender, president of Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC, Government and Public Affairs.
Democratic hope of retaining the Senate is seen as increasingly in doubt, with political fallout over the Affordable Care Act as a major reason.
But Senate Democrats launched a new effort Wednesday — led by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy — to counter what they said was a misinformation campaign against the law.
The kickoff for that effort notably did not include any of the incumbents seeking reelection. But Murphy said he hoped the party had learned lessons from 2010.
"There were a lot of Democrats who tried to pretend the Affordable Care Act didn't exist in 2010, and they paid the price," he said. "There's no mistaking the fact that the vast majority of Americans do not want the Affordable Care Act repealed. They want it implemented, They want to see it work."