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Pelosi declines to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders' single-payer healthcare bill

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) declined Tuesday to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders' single-payer healthcare bill, saying her immediate goal is to protect the Affordable Care Act from President Trump's efforts to dismantle it.

Pelosi made it clear that her distance from the bill, which Sanders expects to unveil with top progressives this week, creating something of a litmus test for Democrats, had little to do with its contents. Rather she is working on more incremental gains to preserve and expand coverage for as many Americans as possible, despite Republican opposition to Obamacare, she said.

"Right now, I’m protecting the Affordable Care Act," Pelosi told a small group of reporters at a meeting Tuesday in her Capitol Hill office. "None of these other things, whether it’s Bernie’s [bill], can really prevail unless we have the Affordable Care Act protected."

Sanders, the Vermont independent, is drawing support from top Democrats, including with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and others often mentioned as possible presidential contenders.

Pelosi, though, downplayed the bill as a gauge to measure progressive bona fides.

"I don’t think it’s a litmus test," Pelosi said. "To support the idea that it captures is that we want to have everybody, as many people as possible, covered. And I think that’s something that we all embrace."

Other Democrats, including those in the House, are introducing more modest measures, including one that would extend Medicare-like healthcare coverage to those near retirement age, adults between 55 and 64 years old.

"Put them all on the table," Pelosi said.

Pelosi defended her position at a time when some progressives are taking aim at her leadership, noting that she has backed a single-payer system since before she entered Congress.

"I’ve been carrying single-payer signs as party chair of California," she said, referring to her tenure decades ago as state party leader. "I’m a progressive from San Francisco. Proud liberal. I have my own kind of credibility on these subjects."

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