California Gov. Jerry Brown predicted Tuesday that Republicans would face disastrous electoral consequences if a federal judge's ruling to strike down the Affordable Care Act holds.
"It will build such a backlash that the Democrats will not only overtake the Senate, they'll win the presidency and they'll win enough momentum, particularly on the issue of health care, it will be replaced with something even better," Brown said.
The Democratic governor called last week's decision by a Texas judge to strike down the entire law "a bump in the road." But he also said California would not be able to afford its Medicaid expansion if the federal government stops picking up most of the tab, as outlined under the health law. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is leading a coalition of states in defending the federal law signed by former President Barack Obama.
The ruling does not immediately stop the law, and the U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled to uphold it.
Brown spoke about the health care law during an appearance at the Sacramento Press Club as he prepares to leave office on Jan. 7 after serving a record four terms. In a meandering question-and-answer session with reporters and Brown family biographer, Miriam Pawel, Brown reflected on his tenure, defended major infrastructure projects and talked about the difficulties of waging a presidential campaign.
Brown, 80, was elected in 1974 at age 36 and served for eight years, then elected again in 2011 for two more terms. He also ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 1982, sought the presidency three times, headed the California Democratic Party, and served as mayor of Oakland and California attorney general.
Asked if it was a mistake to run for president three times, Brown responded with a simple "yes," then added, "one too many times." He declined to say which if any Californians he thinks could take on Trump in 2020 but said it's difficult to run a nationwide race from a home base of California.
"You've got to be in the mix on the East Coast, that's still where the power is," he said.
Brown defended his plans to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco and to build two massive water tunnels to reorganize how water is transported from Northern California to the drier south. Both projects are mired in environmental and other lawsuits and will not be completed before Brown leaves office.
The cost of high-speed rail is now estimated at $77 billion and the state lacks the money to build a tunnel under the Pacheco Pass for a segment of the train from the Central Valley to San Francisco. Brown said Democrats in Congress should provide more money for the project if Washington passes an infrastructure spending bill as President Donald Trump has promised.
Brown plans to move to a ranch in Colusa County on old family property with his wife, Anne Gust Brown, when his tenure ends. In his characteristic style, Brown chafed when asked about his proudest accomplishment, saying he prefers to look ahead and keep working.
"What am I proud of?" he said. "That's something you can ask me on the ranch when I've been there a couple of years."