Primarily Speaking

image of a cartoon version of me playing a tuba with the text 'womp womp' coming out of it, while standing in front of a patriotic stars-and-stripes graphic, to which I've added text reading: 'The Democratic Primary 2020: Let's do this thing.'

Welcome to another edition of Primarily Speaking, because presidential primaries now begin fully one million years before the election!

So, Senator Bernie Sanders was on All In with Chris Hayes last night, and he flat-out said that he would not support Democratic legislation to improve the Affordable Care Act. Here is how Chris Hayes (a big Sanders fan) himself described the incredible moment in a tweet: "This Sanders answer whether he would support House Dem legislation to improve ACA is pretty interesting. He says 'no' and says he doesn't support any incremental reforms, which is quite a departure from his record. He's voted for all kinds of incremental reforms including ACA."

"Interesting" is not the word I would use to describe Sanders' answer.

Healthcare analyst Charles Gaba adds further context: "[Hayes] asked him TWICE to clarify. Bernie SPECIFICALLY said he WOULDN'T vote for the House bill if it came to a vote in the Senate...and defined 'incremental' as the 4-year ramp up of his MFA bill." (Note: MFA = Medicare for All.)

He adds: "I should also note that the *House* MFA bill only has a 2-year ramp up, so gee, I guess Bernie is an evil incrementalist himself? He also just threw the House Dems under the bus...including many who presumably support BOTH #ACA2 (short term) AND #MFA (long term)."

So, let's be really clear about what this means: Bernie Sanders said he will not vote to make improvements to the Affordable Care Act because it's his way or the highway. The only support he will give is to his "Medicare for All" proposal (despite the fact that there are real problems with that legislation, too), and, in the meantime, he will refuse to help make improvements to existing healthcare legislation.

Lest you imagine that I am mischaracterizing his position, here is what Sanders tweeted last night: "We must defend the ACA from Trump's assault and protect people's existing coverage. However, protecting the ACA will not fully solve the health care crisis. To finally guarantee health care as a right, we must take on the insurance industry and pass a Medicare for All bill."

He wants to "take on the insurance industry," which is a massive undertaking that cannot happen quickly and will upend the economy and will cost millions of people their jobs, so it is something that necessarily has to happen very slowly and carefully and with a colossal amount of careful planning, and will only vote to "protect," but not to improve, the ACA in the meantime.

This should be absolutely disqualifying for anyone with even the most basic understanding of how governing works and a baseline functional sense of decency.

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By comparison, here is Senator Kamala Harris: "Tens of millions of Americans have benefited from the Affordable Care Act, including the removal of pre-existing conditions as a barrier to receive care. We have been clear, I think, as a nation that we value and we want all Americans to be able to have access to affordable health care, period. The idea that people are playing politics, yet again, with the Affordable Care Act is the height of irresponsibility." She was talking about Trump. It's scandalous that it wouldn't be unreasonable to conclude she may have been talking about someone else in the Democratic primary.

Hey, speaking of Harris, you know who likes her pay-teachers-more plan that I mentioned yesterday? Senator Amy Klobuchar!

This is what the Democratic primary could look like — a roundtable of ideas in which the candidates come together to debate differences in a meaningful way and support each other along points of agreement. I am so here for that, as much as it can happen.

Speaking of good policy, Senator Elizabeth Warren's has introduced a sweeping childcare proposal that "calls for providing licensed early childhood care for every family in the country at a cost of no more than 7 percent of that family's income. For families making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($51,000 for a family of four), child care would be free. Moody's estimates 12 million children will be eligible. Warren's Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act is certain to change lots about the federal budget. It has an estimated cost of $70 billion a year — or $700 billion over a decade. That's a big number, but it does represent only one-third of 1 percent of GDP, and Warren has cited estimates that the tax on the ultra-wealthy she would implement to pay for the program would generate near-$3 trillion in revenue over a decade."

Back to healthcare for a moment: Julián Castro also had a very good response to Trump's attack on healthcare. Check out all the Democratic talking points about their successes on healthcare he manages to seamlessly deliver in a minute and a half. He's very good on TV. So polished.

In case you want to find out more about Senator Cory Booker's policies and thoughts, CNN is doing a town hall with each of the candidates, and it's Booker's turn tonight at 10pm ET. Live from South Carolina and moderated by Don Lemon.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand continues to get mighty pushback — and deservedly so — in response to her garbage opioid bill. Many concerns that have been voiced simply have not been addressed. Dr. Ryan Marino, an emergency medical physician and medical toxicologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, notes that "acute pain" is not defined in the legislation, "which is going to be a big problem, because that definition itself is my biggest issue with this proposed legislation." Ana Mardoll continues to flag that Congressional control on pill dispensing might be immediately co-opted to deny birth control. And Abraham Gutman has [Content Note: self-harm] a very good thread on many of the additional problems with the approach laid out in Gillibrand's bill. What an absolute mess.

In other news, Gillibrand has released her taxes and has a petition you can sign calling for every other candidate to release their taxes, too.

I really don't know about Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He's now utilizing a mendacious talking point about how "Democrats spent too much time in 2016 talking about Trump" and claims Hillary Clinton's whole message was "don't vote for him." That is such rank bullshit. And during the same interview, he said this about infamously homophobic Chick-fil-A: "I do not approve of their politics, but I kind of approve of their chicken. So maybe if nothing else, I can build that bridge. Maybe I'll become in a position to broker that peace deal." At this point, I've come to the conclusion that Mayor Pete just isn't my style. There's a long way to go, and plenty of time for him to win me back, but I'm guessing that isn't going to happen. We're on very different pages.

John Hickenlooper is still definitely running for president.

Talk about these things! Or don't. Whatever makes you happy. Life is short.

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