Sen. Brown pushes progressive credentials, but won’t back Medicare-for-all, Green New Deal yet

Credit: Win McNamee

Credit: Win McNamee

As he considers a bid for the White House, Sen. Sherrod Brown is stopping short of endorsing ambitious, sometimes costly progressive proposals to provide Medicare for all and eliminate carbon emissions entirely.

Instead, in an hour–long breakfast with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor Tuesday, the Ohio Democrat defended his progressive credentials while not fully embracing the most liberal ideas to come out of the new Democratic House Majority and Democratic presidential candidates such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“I’m not going to take a position on every bill that’s coming out,” he said, while saying he nonetheless considers climate change “one of the most important moral issues of our time.” He said he supports universal coverage but endorses allowing people to buy-in to Medicare at the age of 50 and possibly expanding it from there.

“I think over time people will see how well this works,” he said, saying doing so is “not just practical and smart, it will help people today.”

RELATED: Dayton Mayor Whaley launches group urging Brown to run for president

By not fully embracing some of the most ambitious proposals in his party — he also declined to endorse Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ call for a 70 percent marginal tax rate for the wealthiest Americans — Brown is backing up arguments that he’s made that he may be able to win industrial Midwestern states that have been loath to elect Democrats in recent years. Brown was the only Democrat to win statewide in Ohio last fall, winning with 53.4 percent of the vote.

David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron said while Brown is sympathetic to issues such as universal health care and climate change, he won’t necessarily sign onto every bill addressing the issues.

“This guy’s been in politics his entire adult life,” he said. “He’s a policy wonk, he understands the legislative process, and he understands what is practical and pragmatic and what can be accomplished versus a lot of pie in the sky proposals.”

Pressed in particular about whether he embraced a “Green New Deal” proposed by Ocasio–Cortez, Brown said “I’m not going to get in the position of every time somebody has a really good idea or a big idea that I have to talk in great detail about my position on it.”

“I know that the easy thing to do is say, ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. But I don’t know that it serves my constituents.”

At the same time, Brown emphasized his progressive credentials, saying if he runs, “I will be the only Democrat on that stage who voted against the Iraq War. I’ll be the only Democrat on that stage who’s supported marriage equality for 20 years. I’ll be the only Democrat on that stage that opposed NAFTA. I’ll be the only person on that stage that has a long lifetime record of an F from the NRA so I don’t need to cosponsor every bill that others think they need to cosponsor to show my progressive politics.”

Brown also doubled down on his argument that Trump is a racist, doubling down on statements he made in early February. But he added to that. “I would just put it this way,” he said. “The president of the United States is a bully and in the end all bullies are cowards and that’s the way he plays.”

Brown stopped short, however, of saying that those who voted for Trump are racists.

“I think Trump carried Ohio — meaning carried my state — by almost nine points,” he said. “That doesn’t mean my state is racist. It means that people in Ohio thought that their kids weren’t going to be better off materially than they were.”

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