Pelosi rejects socialism, says it's "not the view" of the Democratic Party

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

/ CBS News

Nancy Pelosi: The 2019 "60 Minutes" interview

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back against claims by President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress that the Democratic Party is embracing socialism, saying the leftist economic model is not viable for the U.S.

"I do reject socialism as an economic system," Pelosi said in an interview with "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday. "If people have that view, that's their view. That is not the view of the Democratic Party."

The most powerful woman in American politics said Republicans have employed an "ongoing theme" of trying to incorrectly paint Democrats as fringe socialists for decades. Pelosi cited opposition by some Republicans to more government involvement in health care before the passage of the Social Security Amendments of 1965, which created the Medicare and Medicaid programs for Americans aged 65 or older, people with disabilities and low-income families.

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"When Medicare was done by the Congress at the time, under Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan said, 'Medicare will lead us to a socialist dictatorship,'" she said, referring to comments made by President Reagan in 1961, when he warned about the perils of "socialized medicine" before running for elected office.

House Democrats' resounding victory in the November midterm elections, which allowed Pelosi to retake the speaker's gavel after nearly a decade, also brought new, outspoken progressive lawmakers to Congress, including some self-described democratic socialists like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib.

During the new congressional session, the party's progressive wing has pushed for bold proposals like the "Green New Deal," a sweeping plan to overhaul the American economy to mitigate climate change, and "Medicare for All," which would convert health care in the U.S. into a single-payer system.

The president and Republicans have cited these proposals to accuse the entire Democratic Party of endorsing fringe, far-left agendas. To warn about the pitfalls of the socialist governance he claims Democrats now advocate for, the president has also highlighted the socio-economic crisis in Venezuela, which is ruled by a leftist, but increasingly authoritarian government.

Asked if there are major rifts between the moderate and more progressive factions of her party, Pelosi minimized the ideological disagreement among House Democrats. She said all members of her caucus, regardless of their position on the political spectrum, understand the importance of holding "the center" of American politics.

"By and large, whatever orientation they came to Congress with, they know that we have to hold the center. That we have to be go down the mainstream," she said.

First published on April 14, 2019 / 9:02 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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