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Democrats Talk Unity as Pelosi Knocks Sanders

Pelosi's dismissal of Sanders' single-payer health care plan was not a statement of opposition to the idea so much as it was a reality check on his ability to deliver on his idea. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

BALTIMORE — As House Democrats gathered here Wednesday to show their unity, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated there's at least one Democrat who doesn't share their vision for the future: presidential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders.  

Specifically, Pelosi was addressing Sanders' plan for a single-payer health care system, an idea she's supported in the past but one she said is not politically viable.  

"That’s not going to happen," the California Democrat said. "I mean does anybody is this room think that we’re going to be discussing a single payer?" she added, looking around to her House Democratic leadership team. The leaders held a news conference upon their arrival in Baltimore before beginning their 2016 issues conference.  

Pelosi has not formally endorsed in the presidential race, although she has often hinted about her support for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, including in a recent interview with Roll Call. At Wednesday's news conference she noted she was proud of all three Democratic presidential candidates — Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley — but indicated she does not expect Sanders to prevail as the Democratic nominee.  

“The fact is that Bernie Sanders is enlarging the universe of people paying attention to the election, and we hope that he will bring them to the polls in November to support the Democratic nominee,” Pelosi said.  

Her dismissal of Sanders' single-payer health care plan was not a statement of opposition to the idea so much as it was a reality check on his ability to deliver on his idea.  

"I’ve been for single payer for 30 years," Pelosi said. "It is a very popular idea in our country, but we have made a decision about where we’re going on health care."  

Pelosi was referring to the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010 when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. When drafting the law, Democrats made sure that some popular features of a single-payer health care system were included, she said, citing no preexisting conditions, lifetime limits or annual limits as examples.  

"Right now, we’re proud of what we have and want to build upon that,” Pelosi said.  

Pelosi's comments show a contrast between mainstream Democrats and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats and has portrayed himself as the outsider candidate, at a time when her fellow House Democratic leaders are trying to deliver a message of unity. That is the theme for their annual retreat, which runs until Friday. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. will address members at the retreat Thursday.  

"My own view [is] that the stark difference between the two parties is [the Democrats'] underlying premise is, 'We are in this together,'" House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said.  

"In many respects, philosophically, our Republican colleagues believe each of us is on our own: no minimum wage, no healthcare, no rules protecting consumers,” he added.  

 

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