(CNN) — Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday night broke from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who in a recent interview suggested that passing a watered-down version of “Medicare for All” in a deeply divided Congress would still represent a major achievement for the Democratic Party’s progressive wing.
Asked about her comments by CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a town hall in Las Vegas, Sanders gently disputed Ocasio-Cortez’s framing of the situation, and argued that his legislation’s four-year transition “is, in a sense, already a compromise.”
“I love Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has done more in her first year in Congress to transform politics, to get young people involved, than any freshman member of Congress that I can remember,” Sanders said. “But my view is that Medicare for All, the bill that we wrote, is in a sense already a compromise. It is a four-year transition period.”
Ocasio-Cortez, in an interview with HuffPost last week, acknowledged that the ambitious plan to wipe out the private insurance industry and replace it with a universal, government-run program would face a rocky road in Congress.
“A president can’t wave a magic wand and pass any legislation they want,” she said, before considering the alternative.
“The worst-case scenario? We compromise deeply and we end up getting a public option,” she said of what could unfold during a Sanders presidency. “Is that a nightmare? I don’t think so.”
Ocasio-Cortez was lauded by some more moderate Democratic pundits, who took her remarks to mean she was more willing to cut a deal on the issue than previously indicated. Others suggested she and other leftists had been hypocrites for slighting presidential primary candidates advocating a more piecemeal approach.
Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, latched on to the comment and suggested that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has proposed a two-part transition to Medicare for All, deserved an apology. Ocasio-Cortez responded, in a tweet, saying that she was addressing the question “as a member of Congress” and not “on behalf” of the Sanders campaign.
“Ironically, the context of this quote (to HuffPost) is me pointing out how the failure of ACA negotiations resulted in killing the public option 10 years ago,” Ocasio-Cortez added. “I think it’s an important case study to examine, regardless of where one ultimately lands on the issue.”
Sanders, despite his refusal to concede any ground on Medicare for All now, backed the Affordable Care Act when it was making its way through the Senate back in 2009 and 2010. He also traveled the country with progressive activists to rally support for the law when Republicans tried to eliminate it in 2017.