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Sherrod Brown: Nancy Pelosi’s views are best barometer for Democratic Party

The center of the Democratic Party is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, not freshmen lawmakers such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a key Democrat eyeing a presidential bid told reporters Tuesday.

Sen. Sherrod Brown said he doesn’t think the party has shifted to the left, saying Mrs. Pelosi’s views are the best barometer for where the party is right now.

“Nancy Pelosi is the leader of the party,” the Ohio Democrat said. “I look to what she says more than I look to what a handful of members of Congress say.”

In the midst of mulling a 2020 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, the gravely-voiced Mr. Brown is making the rounds in the early primary states, telling voters he’s been a reliable warrior for liberal causes and a voice for the working class over his four decades of public service.

He’s also been less eager to chase after the party’s left wing, embodied by the likes of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her push to get Democrats to sign onto her Green New Deal proposal.

Seven of Mr. Brown’s fellow senators running or eyeing presidential bids have signed onto her framework, which calls for major upheavals in the economy to control greenhouse gas emissions — along with a side dish of income redistribution and social-justice demands.

Mr. Brown, though, has not signed up.

Speaking to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, he said elected leaders should be more aggressive in curtailing climate change but wasn’t ready to go all-in on the Ocasio Cortez-led plan.

He also said he sides with those pushing for “universal health care,” but he’s not ready to enlist on Sen. Bernard Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, saying he prefers a voluntary buy-in to government health care for now.

“Eventually we could probably get to something like Medicare for All, but we start by expanding it and helping people now,” Mr. Brown said.

He said he’d stack his progressive credentials up against all of his potential opponents.

“I will be the only Democrat on that stage that voted against the Iraq War,” he said. “I will be the only Democrat on that stage that supported marriage equality for 20 years I will be the only person on that stage who has a long lifetime record of an ‘F’ with the NRA.”

Mr. Brown also could be the only candidate in the race that have voted — then as a member of House — for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which was the last major round of wall-building on the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Trump and Republican have chided Democrats who voted for that bill — including then-Sens. Barack Obama, Joseph R. Biden and Hillary Clinton — while complaining about Mr. Trump’s requests now.

Mr. Brown said things have changed, and now technology is better, and the demographics of the people coming have changed. He also said he isn’t concerned about primary voters questioning the vote, saying he recalls at the time there was “overwhelming support from progressives for that” and it was a “pretty mainstream Democratic position.”

But most Democrats in the House — more than two-thirds — voted against the Secure Fence Act, including Mrs. Pelosi.

First elected to the Senate in 2006, Mr. Brown won a third term in the November midterm elections. Before that he served in the House, as secretary of state in Ohio and in the Ohio legislature.

He barely registers in the early presidential polls.

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