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Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder

Senate Democrats are distancing themselves from Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMark Cuban: ProPublica 'not being honest' about taxes on wealthy On The Money: Bipartisan Senate group rules out tax hikes on infrastructure | New report reignites push for wealth tax New report reignites push for wealth tax MORE’s (D-Mass.) “Medicare for All” plan, casting doubt on whether it could pass even if she does win the presidency.

Warren rolled out her proposal for Medicare for All last week, instantly fanning the flames of a raging debate among the Democratic presidential contenders over the idea.

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But even if Warren wins the presidency and Democrats take back the Senate next year, her proposal would still face long odds of actually being enacted given objections among many senators of her own party.

Some Democratic senators on Tuesday said flatly that they would not vote for Warren’s plan if she were president in 2021. 

“No, I wouldn’t; I’ve said consistently that I am not for Medicare for All,” said Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who faces a tough reelection race next year. A victory by Jones would greatly help Democrats reach a Senate majority.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale Sanders push to block arms sale to Israel doomed in Senate Schumer tactics on China bill reveal broader trade strategy MORE (D-N.J.) said “not as I understand it” when asked if he would vote for Warren’s plan.

The proposed elimination of private insurance and its trillions of dollars in tax hikes are prime reasons Democrats cite for rejecting her approach.

Many Democratic senators said they prefer an optional government-run insurance plan, known as a public option, more along the lines of what former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg: Bipartisan deal on infrastructure 'strongly preferred' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican MORE are proposing.

“I’m not about to take away private insurance from the union members who have worked so hard to negotiate for it,” Menendez said.

The Medicare for All legislation sponsored by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Biden seeks to reassert US climate leadership | President to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass | Administration proposes its first offshore wind lease sale On The Money: Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal, warn of time crunch Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives MORE (I-Vt.), a progressive rival to Warren for the Democratic presidential nomination, has support from some Democratic senators, but most are not backing it. The bill has 14 Democratic co-sponsors in addition to Sanders, out of 47 members of the Senate Democratic Conference.

Democrats must win a net gain of three seats and take the White House to gain the Senate majority in 2021, a high bar. If they do, they are expected to have a narrow majority, where only a few Senate Democrats would be enough to kill ambitious liberal proposals even if the party abolished the filibuster to allow measures to pass without Republican support.

And it is not just a handful of moderates who have concerns with Medicare for All, but many mainstream Senate Democrats. 

Asked if he would vote for Warren’s plan in 2021, Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinAntsy Democrats warn of infrastructure time crunch 'SECURE 2.0' will modernize retirement security for the post-COVID American workforce Bipartisan group of senators introduces surface transportation bill MORE (D-Md.) doubted it would come up for a vote at all.

“I don’t know that we’ll have a chance to do that; I think we’ll take up our own proposals,” he said. “I’m for universal coverage, I’m for building on the Affordable Care Act. My preference is to move forward on a public option.”

If Democrats controlled the Senate, he added, “I think we would look to build on the Affordable Care Act,” rather than pass Medicare for All.

Warren, a top-tier candidate now seen as a favorite to win the Iowa caucuses, sought to address concerns about Medicare for All on Friday by emphasizing that her $20.5 trillion plan would not include any middle-class tax increases. She said it would instead be funded by redirecting what employers already pay for health insurance and new taxes on the wealthy.  

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Warren and Sanders also emphasize that Medicare for All would expand coverage to everyone and would eliminate premiums and deductibles, providing much more generous coverage to the millions of people who struggle with high out-of-pocket costs under the current system.

Asked by a reporter in Iowa on Monday how she would get Medicare for All through the Senate, Warren said the election results would send a message.

“When I win, I will turn around to all of my Democratic colleagues and say this is what I ran on,” Warren said, according to a transcript provided by her campaign. “It’s there. And that’s what the majority of the people in the United States said they wanted.”

She acknowledged that “there have to be compromises” in Congress. “But we’ve gotta come together after this primary, we’ve gotta come together for the 2020 election,” she added. “And then, we have to deliver what we run on.”

Some Democrats fear that Medicare for All is a liability in the general election. An optional government-run plan polled better than full-scale Medicare for All in a September Kaiser Family Foundation survey, which found 69 percent support for an optional plan and 52 percent support for the full-scale government plan.

“I line up with Joe Biden. I want to make sure that the Affordable Care Act works,” said Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal Overnight Health Care: US to donate 500 million Pfizer doses to other countries: reports | GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message | Federal appeals court blocks Missouri abortion ban Senate crafts Pelosi alternative on drug prices MORE (D-Del.), who has endorsed Biden. “I supported a public option. I still do.”

Carper and Cardin both declined to say definitively if they would vote “no” on full-scale Medicare for All legislation if it came to a vote.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerWhite House briefed on bipartisan infrastructure deal but says questions remain Bipartisan Senate group announces infrastructure deal 'The era of bipartisanship is over': Senate hits rough patch MORE (D-Va.) objected to Medicare for All’s elimination of private insurance, saying there need to be “reforms to the private health care marketplace” but that “elimination of that option” is the wrong approach. 

Medicare for All has more support in the House, where about half of the Democratic caucus has signed on to the leading bill.

But the top House Democrat, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiVaccinated lawmakers no longer required to wear masks on House floor Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over Pelosi signals no further action against Omar MORE (Calif.), raised concerns with the idea last week, telling Bloomberg, “I’m not a big fan of Medicare for All.”

Some Democrats think it is smarter for the party to focus on the winning message that helped the party gain back the House last year and highlight Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE is supporting a lawsuit to overturn the entire law that is currently making its way through the courts. 

“There are differences on the Democratic side about how fast to get to universal coverage, but Trump wants to take people’s health insurance away,” said Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' Cryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner MORE (D-Ohio).

Cardin noted that a Democratic president would certainly have some sway on which way the party goes on health care, but that the ultimate decision would be up to Congress.

“That’s what’s great about the American system, the independent branches of government,” he said.