“I love Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She has done more in her first year in Congress to transform politics, to get young people involved, than any freshman member of Congress that I can remember,” Sanders (I-Vt.) told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “But my view is that Medicare-for-all, the bill that we wrote, is in a sense already a compromise. It is a four-year transition period.”
A spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In an interview with HuffPost last week, Ocasio-Cortez signaled some flexibility on the senator’s signature Medicare-for-all proposal.
“A president can’t wave a magic wand and pass any legislation they want,” she said.
“The worst-case scenario? We compromise deeply and we end up getting a public option. Is that a nightmare? I don’t think so,” Ocasio-Cortez said. HuffPost reported that Ocasio-Cortez stressed that just getting a public option wasn’t the left’s ultimate goal.
RoseAnn DeMoro, a close friend of Sanders who used to head an influential nurses union, was critical of Ocasio-Cortez’s comments last week.
“You don’t surrender in advance,” DeMoro said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It was a misstep.”
Coming off strong performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders is ascendant in the Democratic race, taking a lead in some recent national polls and emerging as a top candidate here in Nevada, which is the next state to hold a nominating contest.
As he has risen, Sanders has drawn criticism from his rivals, who argue that he has not done enough to disavow harsh attacks from his supporters and staff against critics of his campaign.
Former vice president Joe Biden has argued that Sanders is partially culpable for a recent onslaught prominent union officials recently said they faced from Sanders backers. And former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg’s campaign compiled aggressive social media messages in a video portraying the Sanders movement as overly hostile.
“Will you condemn the ‘Bernie Bro’ behavior?” a woman asked Sanders on Tuesday.
“I will condemn absolutely anybody, including my campaign, or any other campaign, that makes vicious personal attacks against people,” Sanders said.
He said his campaign “believes in compassion.”
Sanders said that his wife and some African American women in his campaign also have faced ugly attacks. He added that “99.9 percent” of his supporters are not people who would launch personal attacks.
Sanders also sought to cast doubt on the notion that many of the attacks against the influential Culinary Workers Union, which criticized his health-care stance, were actually from his supporters. He suggested that others trying to sow chaos could be responsible.
“There are people out there who want to divide the progressive movement,” said Sanders. “The idea that anybody who works with me would make a vicious attack against a union leader just because we disagree on an issue is incomprehensible to me. And you know what? I’m just not sure that that’s true.”
The union has said that Sanders supporters “viciously attacked” them for arguing that his Medicare-for-all plan would undercut the health coverage it has negotiated for its members.
Sanders would not definitively say whether he would take campaign money from Bloomberg if he becomes the nominee and Bloomberg wants to help him.
“I don’t think we’re going to need that money,” Sanders said.