Democratic presidential primary candidate Beto O'Rourke went on CNN for a town hall Tuesday evening in an attempt to breathe some life into his struggling campaign, but all he did was earn the ire of progressives after delivering a less than ambitious answer to a question on Medicare for All.
O'Rourke declined to endorse the popular policy by host Dana Bash as a follow up to a question from the audience on drug prices. Bash asked the former Texas congressman why he supports the Medicare for America plan put forth by Democratic Reps. Rose DeLauro (Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) instead of Medicare for All.
"They don't have time for us to get to the perfect solution," O'Rourke said, referring to audience member Diane Kolmer, whose struggles with the disease multliple sclerosis prompted her to ask about healthcare, and a man O'Rourke claimed to have met named "Joey."
"If we were to start from scratch, maybe we would start with a single payer," added O'Rourke, "but we've got to work with the system that we have here today."
Beto O’Rourke, asked why he doesn’t favor Medicare for All, said patients in need of help "don’t have time for us to get to the perfect solution. ... We’ve got to work with the system that we have here today." https://t.co/7kbqZcYrTH #CNNTownHall pic.twitter.com/y6BjhcBwhS— CNN (@CNN) May 22, 2019
O'Rourke's perceived prevarication on healthcare generated sharp criticism from the left.
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"It's obvious why this guy has been campaigning on awkward hand motions, standing on tables, photo shoots and trying to sound like Obama," progressive news podcast "The District Sentinel" said in a tweet. "He has absolutely nothing to offer."
Some More News host Cody Johnston mocked O'Rourke's narrow use of timing.
"Beto O'Rourke," Johnston tweeted, "running for president of Exactly Now."
O'Rourke's position on healthcare puts him to the right of a number of his opponents in the Democratic primary. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have each expressed firm support for Medicare for All, and, according to a Washington Post analysis, at least 12 of the 23 candidates running endorse some version of the universal healthcare system.
Columbia Law School lecturer Shawn Sebastian pointed out that any plan supported by Democrats, even Medicare for America, won't face any more of an easy path to becoming law than Medicare for All—Republicans, Sebastian said, will oppose anything with the same ferocity they oppose the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
"The GOP tried to repeal the ACA for a decade and they'll fight Beto's plan another decade," said Sebastian. "We'll get worse outcomes to protect private insurance. Beto is lying."