Sen. Tammy Baldwin has supported Sen. Bernie Sanders' “Medicare for All” plan and single-payer health care. But just last week, a study by a libertarian policy center at George Mason University showed that such a plan could cost an additional $32.6 trillion over 10 years.
Appearing Sunday on the “UpFront with Mike Gousha” television talk show, Baldwin attempted to put those costs into context.
“We’re paying a lot more now ... it’s just divided into so many pots, it’s so complex,” she said, saying that under the current system, “people are paying for prescription drugs that is driving them bankrupt even if they have health insurance.”
Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat who faces reelection this fall, brought up an example of a woman who couldn’t afford to pay $90,000 a year for multiple sclerosis medication while on Medicare.
“She and her husband had the conversation you never, ever want to have, and they decided she is going to stop taking her medicine," Baldwin said.
She admitted that a single-payer health care system would mean significant tax increases, but said it would also mean no more premiums.
“Prior to the Affordable Care Act, half of all U.S. bankruptcies had a health-care related cause. That’s a system that is broken,” she said.
On “UpFront,” Baldwin also tackled topics like her re-election campaign, tariffs and her opposition to Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Gousha pointed out that although Baldwin’s re-election campaign was “expected to be one of the top races in the country,” with some pundits predicting that Baldwin would be “in a dog fight for re-election,” so far, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Her Republican challengers, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, and Delafield businessman Kevin Nicholson, will face off in the Aug. 14 primary.
Baldwin said she feels good about her place in the race at this point. A June Marquette University Law School poll showed her winning against Vukmir by 9 percentage points and Nicholson by 11 points, with other polls telling similar stories. Baldwin said she knows “things could change at any moment.”
She once again pointed to over $10 million of outside special interest spending from funders like the Koch brothers network and Richard Uihlein to oppose her. There have been attack ads airing against Baldwin for over a year without “any sign of them backing off,” Baldwin said. Baldwin has raised $21 million.
On trade, Gousha asked if Baldwin could be critical of Trump’s efforts "to get people to buy American" in light of her own “Buy America” reform, which would require that water infrastructure projects use American-made iron and steel.
The difference, Baldwin said, is that Trump’s strategy should have started with “Buy America" first and focused on China, as they “have been cheating in ways that affect our national security and they are an appropriate target of those types of tariffs, especially on steel and aluminium.” But including countries like Canada, Mexico and the European Union “who are not a national security threat in these arenas” has been harmful, she said.
“I am not opposed to tariffs if they are used strategically and smartly,” she said.
On Capitol Hill, there’s “sort of a document battle going on,” over the nomination of potential Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, Baldwin said. Republicans want him to be confirmed before the fall November elections.
Democrats have asked for a long list of documents connected to his previous public service, and documents from his time as staff secretary to President George W. Bush have become a specific sticking point. Republicans have said the documents aren’t relevant and called this a stalling tactic, saying the documents won’t actually change the minds of some Democrats who have already decided to vote against Kavanaugh.
Baldwin said she’ll oppose Kavanaugh. But she still plans to meet with him, and also wants to review the documents associated with his past service, as it’s “really important to know a lot of his involvement in advising a previous president.”
Gousha asked why she intends to meet with him if “nothing he could say ... could change your feeling about him?”
Baldwin only answered that “Wisconsinites need a fair, impartial, independent justice,” due to the high stakes facing Supreme Court cases. She listed topics like abortion rights under Roe v. Wade, insurance coverage for contraception, environmental issues like protections for clean drinking water.
“I have to say when you have a list (of potential Supreme Court nominees) that you have basically allowed other people to put together, folks with very focused special interests and you choose off that list, I think there's a lot of reason for deep scrutiny of this nominee,” she said.
Asked if she’s worried that Republicans will use this issue to accuse her of being an obstructionist in her campaign, she said she thought special interests would continue raise the issue.
“I think (special interests) want a senator who’s in their pocket who’s going to do their bidding, and I’m fighting for Wisconsin,” she said.