I'm not a big fan of Medicare for All, says ... Nancy Pelosi

I'm not a big fan of Medicare for All, says ... Nancy Pelosi

I shouldn’t be surprised. She has two good reasons to prefer the status quo, after all, or at least to prefer reform that moves very gently away from the status quo instead of ripping it up at the roots like Medicare for All would. One is her legacy. She’s the Speaker who got ObamaCare through the House despite ferocious opposition, knowing that the backlash might destroy her majority and send her into the wilderness for years. Which it did. House Democrats bled too much for Obama’s program to see it wiped away just a decade later by the health-care boondoggle to end all boondoggles.

The trauma of getting obliterated by the GOP in 2010 informs the second reason: Pelosi is worried, as she usually is, about the political baggage centrist Democrats will be forced to carry in purple districts next fall. She dodged progressive demands to impeach Trump over Russiagate because she feared the GOP would gain more political mileage from that than Democrats would. The Ukraine matter is safer ground for them, but the prospect of being saddled with defending Medicare for All on the trail next year is a new worry for her and her moderates. They’re already anxious:

“If Joe Biden is the nominee, Democrats probably won’t have to be talking about Medicare for All,” said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “If Elizabeth Warren is the nominee, then Democrats might have to spend some money distancing themselves from her proposals.”…

“Making this election about whether you support Medicare for All is very damaging up and down the ballot,” said [strategist Kristen] Hawn. She said the issue may please base voters but the centrists and independents that moderate Democrats rely on to win re-election aren’t ready to eliminate private health insurance…

The majority of Democrats who won GOP-held seats last year haven’t signed on to the Medicare-for-All legislation in the House. Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat who won a GOP-held seat last year, says the policy “would maybe cause more challenges than it solves.”

“Remember November,” said Pelosi in the interview that the clip below is taken from, straight and to the point. So, not a surprise to find her skeptical of M4A — and yet kind of a surprise since it pits the Speaker of the House, the most powerful Democratic official in the country right now, against the Democratic frontrunner on the very day that Warren is rolling out her big Medicare for All proposal.

In fact, Joe Biden criticized Warren’s new plan this morning by wondering how we’d pay for it, a point Pelosi is sympathetic to. Warren’s response: Accuse him — and Nancy, by extension? — of sounding like Republicans.

I’m tempted to ask whether Pelosi might make trouble for President Fauxcahontas on this issue if the two end up governing together in 2021, but the question is probably moot. If Warren ends up getting elected running on M4A and Pelosi retains her majority, the Speaker may conclude that there’s enough public support to go big on health care after all. And either way, the Senate will obviously be a bigger problem for Warren than the House will. Even if Schumer figures out a way to eliminate the filibuster, how likely will Senate Democratic candidates be to embrace Medicare for All in tight races? Is Gary Peters going to gamble his thin lead over John James in Michigan on eliminating private insurance? How about Mark Kelly as he tries to unseat Martha McSally in reddish-purple Arizona? I think Pelosi feels comfortable signaling her skepticism of M4A because she knows it’s all but certain to remain a pipe dream in the next Congress. The GOP would need to sustain a truly hellacious beating next fall to give Warren the numbers she needs in Congress to get this passed, allowing for some swing-state defections.

I mean, you never know with Trump. But a hellacious beating for the governing party after four years of economic growth strikes me as likely to be unprecedented in American history. Political nerds are invited to correct me on that if I’m wrong.

Exit question: Will Bernie will dare attack Warren at the next debate by pointing out that the health-care plan they both support would cost waaaaay more than she’s letting on, and would definitely require taxing the middle class? Not a great talking point for him, even if it would score a point on her in the primary.

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