AOC lowers expectations on Medicare for All, admitting Sanders 'can't wave a magic wand' to pass it


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Thursday that if Sen. Bernie Sanders were elected president, he still might not be able to get Medicare for All, his signature health plan, passed in Congress.

“A president can’t wave a magic wand and pass any legislation they want,” Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told HuffPost this week.

While Ocasio-Cortez rarely tempers expectations when championing ideas like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal to fight climate change she helped author, she went on to suggest that under a President Sanders, a “compromise” might emerge on health care, even though she still considers Sanders’s bill the gold standard.

“The worst-case scenario? We compromise deeply and we end up getting a public option. Is that a nightmare? I don’t think so,” she said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks at a campaign stop for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at La Poste, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Perry, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a campaign stop for Sen. Bernie Sanders on Jan. 26 in Perry, Iowa. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

That dose of political realism was notable on an issue that has divided the Democratic primary. When Sen. Elizabeth Warren rose to the top of the Democratic field last fall, her rivals zeroed in on her inability to say whether a government-run health plan estimated to cost $30 trillion would result in higher taxes for the middle class.

After Warren laid out a modified proposal for her health care plan that she said would cost $20 trillion, former Vice President Joe Biden accused her of “making it up.”

“Look, nobody thinks it’s $20 trillion,” Biden told PBS last year, adding, “I think it is going to be very difficult to even get a Democratic Congress to vote for that.”

Warren’s revised plan is similar to what Ocasio-Cortez proposed as a fallback goal of enacting a public option as a first step to full Medicare for All.

After Warren offered that concession, and as her standing in the race fell, she was supplanted by Sanders as the face of Medicare for All, and the target of critics who see it as unrealistic.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign event in Durham, N.C., Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign event in Durham, N.C., on Friday. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

During January’s Democratic presidential debate in Iowa, Sen. Amy Klobuchar also threw cold water on the likelihood of Sanders’s plan becoming law.

“Over two-thirds of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate are not on the bill that [Sanders] and Sen. Warren are on,” Klobuchar said. “You have numerous governors that are Democratic that don’t support this.”

Citing data showing that many Americans like their private health care plans, Pete Buttigieg has also offered an alternative to Medicare for All.

“I think the best approach is to make this Medicare option available to everybody, but not command everybody to adopt it, especially I’m thinking of folks like the culinary workers here in Nevada,” Buttigieg said in an interview with the Nevada Independent. “There are a lot of labor union members who have negotiated very good health plans that are part of their compensation, and I don’t think they want to be forced into a plan they don’t know.”

Buttigieg’s plan, which he calls Medicare for All Who Want It, foresees a future in which a government-run health system outcompetes private insurance. In the meantime, however, it backs away from forcing Americans and Congress to choose between a new way of delivering care and the current model.

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments this week were not lost on some of the Democrats who fought to get Obamacare passed into law.

That left Sanders’s most high-profile surrogate to try to clarify her views on how much moderation was too much on the subject of health care.

“FYI, I speak for myself as a member of Congress- if I were speaking on behalf of a campaign, I’d say so!” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response to Tanden. “2nd I think there’s a legitimate convo btwn starting with what you want & starting w/ compromise. I believe a public option is worse than M4A, so we should fight for M4A 1st.”


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