Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said he advised President Obama against taking up health care reform following a special election in 2010 that changed Democrats' fortunes in the Senate, saying that he should have instead turned his focus to financial reform.
Frank referenced former President Bill Clinton and his failed health care plan from the 1990s. “Obama made the same mistake Clinton made,” Frank said in a wide-ranging interview with New York magazine. “When you try to extend health care to people who don’t have it, people who have it and are on the whole satisfied with it get nervous.”
The outgoing representative from Massachusetts added that after Republican Scott Brown won former Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s seat, breaking Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority, Obama should have backed down: “I think we paid a terrible price for health care. I would not have pushed it as hard. As a matter of fact, after Scott Brown won, I suggested going back. I would have started with financial reform but certainly not health care," Frank said.
He said that if the president had followed his advice, “you could have gotten some pieces of it.”
Republicans seized on the comments, with the National Republican Congressional Committee issuing a release to several Democratic-held districts on Monday: “Even Barney Frank admits that ObamaCare has been a disaster,” the statement read. On Tuesday, Frank pushed back against the growing storm, saying that the GOP is “twisting my words,” and arguing that he was making a comment on the politics of the bill, not its “subject matter.”
“I have no issue with the subject matter or the bill itself,” Frank said in an interview with Talking Points Memo. “I was just commenting on the politics. And I was saying it was a mistake to have done it first.”
He further argued that he believes the bill will become more popular as time goes by. “I think, for instance, as the health care bill goes forward, it will be less and less plausible that it was doing any damage to anybody, and more and more people will be seeing the benefits of it,” Frank said.
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