Former Sen. Reid Warns Democrats on Medicare for All

August 21, 2019 Updated: August 21, 2019

WASHINGTON—Harry Reid retired from the U.S. Senate in 2017, and a more recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer may make the 2020 election his last, but that isn’t stopping the Nevada Democrat from warning his party’s presidential contenders they are making two huge mistakes.

Reid left no doubt about where he stands, when he was asked during a lengthy telephone interview with Vice News if he views as “problematic” the Medicare for All proposals being pushed by most of the more than two dozen Democrats contending for their party’s 2020 nomination to oppose President Donald Trump.

“Of course it would be,” said Reid, who was Senate majority leader from 2007 until 2015, when Republicans, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), retook majority control of the upper chamber in Congress. “How would you get it passed?”

Reid was the top Senate power in 2010 when Congress approved President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), and he told Vice News that he believes Democrats should instead “focus on improving Obamacare. We can do that without bringing something that would be much harder to sell.”

The reason he favors keeping the focus on “improving Obamacare” rather than going for Medicare for All is that “people understand that. They would appreciate that. It locks in many important things.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have introduced Medicare for All proposals that would make the federal government virtually the only source for health care coverage. But former Vice President Joe Biden wants to expand Obamacare.

It’s no coincidence that Reid and Biden appear to be on the same wavelength regarding Medicare for All, as the Nevadan told Vice News that the two men had only “very minor disagreements” when they served together.

Reid and Biden were Senate colleagues from 1987 until the latter left the Senate to serve as Obama’s vice president. Reid led the Senate Democratic Conference from 2005 until his retirement.

Reid was similarly unenthusiastic about the growing wave of enthusiasm among Democrats for decriminalizing crossing the United States border from Mexico or Canada without permission.

“There are so many more important things to do,” Reid told Vice News. “Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list. It should be way, way down at the bottom of the list.”

Most people, Reid said, “want a fair immigration system” but they don’t want “an open-door invitation for everybody to come at once.”

Former Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro was the first Democratic presidential aspirant to support decriminalization of border crossings. Sanders, Warren, and Harris followed suit, but Biden hasn’t yet taken a position on the issue.

Democratic campaign strategist Christian Hanley told The Epoch Times on Aug. 21 that although Reid “had a distinguished Senate career,” he’s “not sure his words will carry much weight among primary voters in 2020.”

Hanley, who hosts the “Keep It In Perspective” podcast, said Reid’s “words on health care and the border seemed to be aimed at the field of candidates, not voters.

“Fighting over the legacy of Obama and the ACA and, of course, the border allows Trump to define the Democratic field on his terms, something that everyone running in 2020 should be looking to avoid.”

Republican campaign strategist Brian Darling, however, told The Epoch Times that Reid’s comments make him “one of the sane voices in the Democratic Party who is trying to keep Democrats from fully embracing a far left-wing socialist agenda.”

Darling, who was a key adviser to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) during the latter years of Reid’s tenure as majority leader, said the United States is “a center-right nation that embraces personal freedom and free markets, yet the Democrats are pushing for ideas that will put government front and center in the economy and take away individual rights.”

That means, Darling continued, that “Reid is firing a warning shot that the inclination for Democratic candidates for president to ‘out-woke’ each other will lead to electoral defeat.”

Washington-based communications strategist Beverly Hallberg told The Epoch Times on Aug. 21 that “Reid has always been a stealth politician and for him, this is calculated. He’s trying to do what he can to right the Democratic ship before they veer too far away from working-class Americans.”

Hallberg compared Reid’s comments to Dr. Jill Biden’s similar but much more “clumsily” delivered warning on Aug. 19, and said they reflect the reality that “many Democrats are willing to put specific issues aside for a candidate that can beat Trump.”

Reid said he won’t make such an endorsement decision until after his state’s Feb. 22, 2020, Democratic caucuses, but he may have offered a hint in the interview:

“I’ve been impressed with Elizabeth [Warren]. She is not hiring a bunch of pollsters and consultants. Everything she’s doing is in-house. I’m not going to endorse anyone until after the caucuses, but everyone has to be impressed with what she’s doing.”