Hillary Clinton said Wednesday she hoped for a return to “boring, normal times” after the 2020 election, voicing skepticism of her party’s populist wing and predicting that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for single-payer health care would never get enacted.
At The New York Times DealBook conference in New York, Mrs. Clinton said she saw two of the biggest policies embraced by the left in the 2020 Democratic primary — “Medicare for all”-style health care and a tax on the assets of the very wealthy — as unworkable or politically impractical. She said Democrats should pursue the goal of universal health coverage, but through other means.
A longtime leader of her party’s moderate wing, Mrs. Clinton was most blunt about Ms. Warren’s proposal to replace private health insurance with a single-payer system funded largely by taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Asked if she thought that proposal could get passed into law, Mrs. Clinton answered in the negative.
“No, I don’t — I don’t,” she said. “But the goal is the right goal.”
Mrs. Clinton did not criticize either Ms. Warren or Senator Bernie Sanders, the liberal populist who challenged Mrs. Clinton in the 2016 primary and who also supports Medicare for all, in harsh or personal terms. But she suggested that the approach to health care favored by both was misguided, saying that “the smarter approach is to build on what we have” by adding the option of a public health care plan to the offerings of the Affordable Care Act.
It is not a surprising preference for Mrs. Clinton: In the 2016 campaign, she supported introducing a public health insurance option but consistently rejected Mr. Sanders’s calls for single-payer health care.
Her comments suggest she remains skeptical of the populist forces on the rise in Democratic politics. While Mrs. Clinton did not endorse a candidate, she indicated a clear preference in one of the largest debates raging in the Democratic Party: whether to nominate a candidate who would make sweeping changes to the country’s government and economy, or someone who would restore something like normalcy in Washington.
“I would like us to return to a presidency where we don’t have to wake up every day worried,” Mrs. Clinton said, adding, “I’d like us to get back to sort of boring, normal times.”
She also said she believed she knew who the Democratic nominee was “likely to be,” but declined to name that person.
Mrs. Clinton, who has not entirely ruled out another run for the presidency but has taken no apparent steps toward a campaign, also sounded a note of skepticism about the detail-rich policy debates that have helped shape the Democratic primary so far. Those disputes during primary season, she said, do not always translate into actual governance after the election.
Her 2008 primary battle with Barack Obama furnished an instructive case study, Mrs. Clinton said: During that campaign, Mr. Obama fiercely opposed her proposal for a government mandate that all individuals purchase health insurance, but he went on to include that very rule as president.
The clash over health care unfolding in the primary now, she said, represented “a very healthy debate.”
Of a tax on wealth, which is favored by both Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Clinton questioned whether it could really function as its proponents intend. She said she would support other methods of taxing the rich, like raising income-tax rates, imposing stiffer estate taxes and eliminating certain provisions of the tax code that favor the financial sector.
“I think there are other ways to raise the revenues, and ways that do get those who are well-off to pay more, because I do think we’ve got to have that as part of our effort to combat inequality,” Mrs. Clinton said.
In theory, Mrs. Clinton herself could be subject to the wealth taxes proposed by Ms. Warren, who has called for a levy on fortunes over $50 million, and Mr. Sanders, who would impose a similar tax on fortunes greater than $32 million. Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have earned well over $100 million through paid speaking and book deals since the turn of the century.
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