Barney Frank Says Obama's Health-Care Push Was a 'Mistake'

The outgoing and outspoken Massachusetts Democrat argues that financial reform was a more pressing matter.

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Barney Frank (right) with Sen. Chris Dodd and President Obama at the signing of the financial-reform bill. Reuters

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said he advised President Obama against taking up health-care reform following a special election in 2010 that changed Democrats' fortunes in the Senate, saying that he should have instead turned his focus to financial reform.

Frank referenced former President Bill Clinton and his failed health-care plan from the 1990s. "Obama made the same mistake Clinton made," Frank said in a wide-ranging interview with New York magazine. "When you try to extend health care to people who don't have it, people who have it and are on the whole satisfied with it get nervous."

The outgoing representative from Massachusetts added that after Republican Scott Brown won former Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's seat, breaking Democrats' filibuster-proof majority, Obama should have backed down: "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," Frank said.

He said that if the president had followed his advice, "you could have gotten some pieces of it."

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Jonathan Miller is a staff reporter for the Daily Briefings Team at National Journal.

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