Retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) says with the benefit of hindsight that Democrats should have slowed their push for health care reform in 2009 and 2010, to prioritize other issues, and paid a huge political price for their persistence. In so doing, he's allowed Republicans to box in vulnerable Dems who voted for what ultimately became 'Obamacare.'
"I think [President Obama] underestimated, as did Clinton, the sensitivity of people to what they see as an effort to make them share the health care with poor people," Frank said in an interview with New York Magazine. 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 acknowledges that putting health care reform on the back burner would have made it more difficult to achieve comprehensive reform.
"I’m not sure, but I think you could have gotten some pieces of it," Frank added. "And yeah, if we’d held the House, we could have gotten it."
Republicans are hanging this around incumbent Democrats' necks.
“With Barney Frank even saying that ObamaCare has been a disaster, it’s time for Lois Capps to finally admit she was wrong when she voted for her government takeover of healthcare and its $500 billion cut to Medicare," said NRCC Spokesman Daniel Scarpinato.
When Brown won his Massachusetts Senate seat, Frank did indeed wave the white flag and encourage his colleagues to drop their push for comprehensive reform. But within hours, after some reflection and intense pressure from his party he relented, and in an interview with TPM at the time, walked back from his initial position.
"I should not have put out a statement late in the evening last night when I was upset because I didn't really--I think I overstated the pessimism," Frank said. "I really was worried--I put out a new statement--I was worried about some Democrats doing crazy things, like 'don't seat him', 'let Kirk's vote go.' I was worried about that."