Rep. Frank says he urged Obama to back off healthcare reform

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) thought President Obama was making a “mistake” in pressing for healthcare reform in 2010 and urged the White House to back off after Democrats lost their 60-seat majority in the Senate, the congressman tells New York magazine.

“I think we paid a terrible price for healthcare,” Frank told the magazine in a lengthy interview as he prepares to retire at the end of his 16th term. “I would not have pushed it as hard. As a matter of fact, after [Sen.] Scott Brown [R-Mass.] won [in January 2010], I suggested going back. I would have started with financial reform, but certainly not healthcare.”

{mosads}Democrats lost 66 House seats in the 2010 midterm elections. One political science paper estimated that about 25 of those losses could be linked directly to voting in favor of the healthcare reform law.

Frank, who supported Hillary Clinton in 2008, said Obama made the same mistake the Clintons did in the early 1990s by underestimating the concerns of people who already had healthcare coverage.

“When you try to extend healthcare to people who don’t have it, people who have it and are on the whole satisfied with it get nervous,” Frank said. “The problem with healthcare is this: Healthcare is enormously important to people. When you tell them that you’re going to extend healthcare to people who don’t now have it, they don’t see how you can do that without hurting them. So I think he underestimated, as did Clinton, the sensitivity of people to what they see as an effort to make them share the healthcare with poor people.”

He went on to say the healthcare law was a prime factor in Democrats’ midterm defeat, along with the economic recession and the fact that “the president didn’t want to blame Republicans because he wanted to work together.”

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