Despite a number of high-profile Democrats rallying around Independent Senator Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-all” bill being unveiled Wednesday, the plan still faces significant opposition from party leadership.
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) September 12, 2017
The minority Democrats are already facing pushback on healthcare from Republicans, who are still trying to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but this new single-payer health bill must also contend with opposition from Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress.
— The Hill (@thehill) September 13, 2017
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer refused to stand behind the bill. “There are are many different bills out there. There are many good ones,” he said during a press conference. Schumer pointed out that several Democrats have put forward health care legislation ideas. “We want to move the issue forward. We’re looking at all of these.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she would not be endorsing the bill either.
“Right now, I’m protecting the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi told reporters on Tuesday. “None of these other things … can really prevail unless we have the Affordable Care Act.”
Clinton’s former running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, declined to endorse the bill, saying he’d “rather open it up to more choices, not fewer,” but did say he would support the bill’s introduction to the floor.
Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said the proposal was “premature.” Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Jon Tester of Montana also said they would not support Sanders’ bill. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio announced he would not be co-sponsoring the bill, and has developed a health care bill of his own that would lower the Medicare enrollment age down to 55.
The issue further highlights the divide in the Democratic Party that came to a head during the primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Sanders ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Clinton famously said in 2016 that single-payer will “never, ever” happen, though in 1994 she had said that if Congress did not pass health care reform, the U.S. would have a single-payer system by 2000 due to “momentum” for the “huge popular issue.”
Because of the opposition from both parties to the bill, many see the project as a potential litmus test for the Party — something Pelosi denies.
“I don’t think it’s a litmus test,” Pelosi told reporters. “I think to support the idea that .. it captures is that we want to have everybody, as many people as possible, everybody, covered. And I think that is something that we all embrace.”