Rep. Barney Frank told TPM Tuesday morning that the National Republican Congressional Committee is “twisting my words” by citing a recent interview to say Frank believes the Affordable Care Act is a “disaster.”
“No, I have no issue with the subject matter or the bill itself,” Frank said. “I was just commenting on the politics. And I was saying it was a mistake to have done it first.” He was arguing that Democrats should have prioritized financial reform, Frank insisted — which was more popular, and for which which Frank was the point person — before moving on to health care.
In the interview with New York magazine, Frank said, “I think we paid a terrible price for health care. I would not have pushed it as hard. As a matter of fact, after Scott Brown won, I suggested going back. I would have started with financial reform but certainly not health care.”
The NRCC pounced on the remarks soon after they were published Monday, sending out press releases to multiple Democratic-held districts declaring, “Even Barney Frank admits that ObamaCare has been a disaster,” and calling on the lawmakers to renounce their votes for the law.
Frank clarified that he was critiquing only the politics of the bill’s timing in the New York magazine interview, a fact that was overlooked by the NRCC. “I think, for instance, as the health-care bill goes forward, it will be less and less plausible that it was doing any damage to anybody, and more and more people will be seeing the benefits of it,” he said, as seen in the full transcript.
“Yes, they’re twisting my words,” Frank told TPM of the NRCC, dismissing it as part of “consistent distortions we’ve come to expect from the other side.”
Beyond that, Frank, who is retiring at the end of this term, said he was making a point about the broader political perils of overhauling health care. “That’s why I compared it to Bill Clinton,” he said.
Frank’s remarks are nevertheless a parting shot across the bow to his party’s strategy on its biggest legislative achievement in a generation. But it’s not, as Republicans are suggesting, an attack on the law itself.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.