Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is set to unveil his single payer, “Medicare-for-all” bill on Wednesday, and many Democrats are lending their support.
Single-payer is something Sanders has pushed for throughout his tenure in the Senate, and after his 2016 presidential bid galvanized progressives by prioritizing universal healthcare, many Democrats are signing on as sponsors or early supporters, including several who could make a run for president in 2020.
Notably, Democratic leadership in the Legislature has declined to support Sanders’ bill, highlighting the divide between centrist neo-liberals and the rest of the party.
“Democrats believe that healthcare is a right for all, and there are many different bills out there,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was more focused on defending Obamacare.
As of now, one quarter of Senate Democrats are in support of the bill ahead of its unveiling, and 11 of them are signing on as co-sponsors. These senators include: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California — who was the first co-sponsor — Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 11, 2017
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 9, 2017
They are joined by notable Senators like Al Franken of Minnesota an Tom Udall of New Mexico.
Sen. Al Franken throws his support behind the Sanders single payer healthcare bill. pic.twitter.com/7ueEq4hdCe
— Jennifer Brooks (@stribrooks) September 12, 2017
Those who have not endorsed the bill so far so far include Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow and Montana’s John Tester.
Analysts believe Sanders could present the completed bill as a litmus test to demand Democrats “pledge fealty to its particulars,” or use it as the starting point of a campaign to refine and develop the concept over time.
There is also a similar bill in the House that was sponsored by Democratic Congressman John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan, which has 117 Democratic supporters — more than half of the caucus, the Hill noted.
Sanders’ bill — the first major health care proposal since the Republican’s repeated failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act this year, will face an uphill battle in the Senate, but the ensuing debate will likely shape the identity and strategy of the Democrats heading into mid-terms in 2018, as a number of Republican legislators are considering retirement, and in the 2020 elections.