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. 

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.

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, speaks at a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Queensbridge Park. (Photo by Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) waves with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) as she endorses him during his speech at a campaign rally in Queensbridge Park on October 19, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. This is Sanders' first rally since he paused his campaign for the nomination due to health problems. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) endorses Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at a campaign rally in Queensbridge Park on October 19, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. This is Sanders' first rally since he paused his campaign for the nomination due to health problems. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) endorses Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at a campaign rally in Queensbridge Park on October 19, 2019 in the Queens borough of New York City. This is Sanders' first rally since he paused his campaign for the nomination due to health problems. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
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"This is an immediate threat, it is an immediate, immediate threat, and it is extraordinarily serious," Ocasio-Cortez told reporters on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building on Friday.

She added that in her view there was not more support among Democrats for impeachment proceedings to be leveled against Trump because of challenging elections coming up in their districts.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday that the acting director of national intelligence was breaking the law with his decision to withhold from Congress a whistleblower complaint reported to address communications between President Donald Trump and a foreign leader.

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 20: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., stops to speak with reporters outside of the Capitol after the final votes of the week on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
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Often referred to by her initials, AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history when she became the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress at 29. Since being elected in 2018, the Puerto Rican Bronx native has continued to make headlines thanks to her Green New Deal and outspoken commentary on social media.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., attends a House Oversight Committee hearing on high prescription drugs prices shortly after her private meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 26, 2019. The high-profile freshman and the veteran Pelosi have been critical of one another recently. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 file photo, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., delivers her inaugural address following her swearing-in ceremony at the Renaissance School for Musical Theater and Technology in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, File)
U.S. House of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez listens during the NAACP town hall at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundations (CBCF) 49th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC). Moderated by political strategist & CNN political commentator Angela Rye, in conversation with fellow Representatives: Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar, addressing the 2020 census, voting rights, and the upcoming presidential election. The town hall took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, September 11, 2019. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 29: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks at a public housing town hall at a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residence on August 29, 2019 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Cortez, who represents residents from parts of the Bronx and Queens boroughs, spoke about issues residents face in New York, where one in 14 live in public housing. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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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)

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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