In the past few days a wave of Democrats have raced to throw their support behind Senator Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-All” Single Payer healthcare plan. A little over a week ago a rising star in the party, Kamala Harris, California’s freshman Democrat Senator whose name has emerged as a 2020 hopeful, became the first Senator to co-sponsor the bill. With much speculation behind the impact of her decision, it now seems clear she initiated a shift in the party line that has resulted in Democrats flocking to follow her lead.
Last week, progressive darling Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) unsurprisingly announced she would also co-sponsor the bill, just the second senator to do so. In the days since her announcement, it has become a who’s who of Democratic Senators pledging their support for the bill. Initially, four more Democratic senators, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), announced they would join the pair of progressive women in co-sponsoring Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) Medicare for All bill.
Booker and Gillibrand’s endorsements in particular are worthy of note as the up-and-comers are among the group considered to be 2020 presidential hopefuls. This is another indication of the influence the “progressive wing” of the party has had as single-payer has swiftly become the party line, rather than a deviation from the mainstream Democratic platform.
Booker pledged his support on local NJTV news Monday afternoon, echoing comments made by Harris and others in support of the bill. Booker called healthcare “a right to all,” a phrase which has quickly become a core part of the Democrat’s discourse. He continued, “Obamacare was a first step in advancing this country, but I won’t rest until every American has a basic security that comes with having access to affordable health care,” creating room for more moderate Democrats to sell the move as merely a much needed fix to Obamacare, building on prior efforts.
— NJTV News (@NJTVNews) September 11, 2017
Soon after Booker, Senator Merkley announced on Twitter that he would join in co-sponsoring the bill.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) September 11, 2017
While he did not co-sponsor or endorse Sanders’ specific bill, former Montana Senator and an architect of Obamacare, Max Baucus said last week that he also supports a single-payer system. He told an audience at Montana State University, “my personal view is we’ve got to start looking at single-payer,” adding, “I think we should have hearings…. We’re getting there. It’s going to happen.” Baucus’ comments seems to correspond to the opinion of current Senator from Montana Jon Tester who said last week in a hearing that Congress should take a “solid look” at single-payer. “Activists hailed even those cautious words given Tester represents a red state and has previously been dismissive of the idea that single-payer’s time has come. Tester said “we are so far away” from that debate in both March and June.”
Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse announced his endorsement of the bill last Friday through a spokesperson who spoke with WPRI. His statement read, “Senator Whitehouse intends to cosponsor this bill to move the conversation forward on single-payer health care,” it continued, “the senator will also continue to press for legislation to create a public health insurance option, which he co-authored with Sens. Brown and Franken, and has long supported.”
Bernie Sanders took to Twitter to congratulate his colleague, Whitehouse for joining the effort to making healthcare “a right, not a privilege.”
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) September 9, 2017
Despite once being considered politically “toxic,” public views on single-payer have shifted. A Pew poll in January showed 60 percent of Americans said the government had a responsibility to provide health-care coverage for all, up from 51 percent the year before. The poll showed just 33 percent overall favored single-payer specifically — versus a “mix of government and private programs” — but among Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, 52 percent wanted single-payer. And among self-described liberals, it was 64 percent.
The shifting public sentiment may be a large part of the reason why single-payer now seems to form a litmus test for Democrats.
As of Tuesday at 5:52 PM, Senator Sanders’ bill has garnered 11 total public co-sponsors. In addition to Warren, Gillibrand, Booker, Harris, Merkley, and Whitehouse, Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have all announced their intention to co-sponsor the bill.
Sanders and his co-sponsors will unveil the Medicare for All bill Wednesday.
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) September 12, 2017
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) September 12, 2017
— Sen. Tammy Baldwin (@SenatorBaldwin) September 12, 2017
As of 11:54 PM on Tuesday September 12th two more prominent Democrats, Senators Al Franken (D-Minn) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), have joined in support of a single-payer healthcare system. Manchin’s support is particularly notable as he is considered a vulnerable red-state Democrat. As a Senator from West Virginia, Manchin represents a state in which 67.9% of residents voted for Trump.
• Democrats have been flocking in droves to throw their support behind Senator Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-All” single-payer healthcare bill. It is no longer only fringe progressives supporting the idea as major party leaders pledge support and even red-state Democrats test the waters.
• The Democrats seem to be uniting around this idea as it becomes a more core part of the party’s platform and a response to the difficulties Obamacare faces.
• Public sentiment on single-payer has shifted over time with a 60 percent of Americans say the government has a responsibility to provide health-care coverage for all, up from 51 percent the year before. While only 33 percent favor single-payer specifically, among Democrats that number jumps to 52 percent.
• Is single-payer a platform the Democrats can run on? Is it a solution that they can offer to the floundering Obamacare?
• How will Republicans respond? With the lack of a party consensus on healthcare back in August, will the recent move by the Democrats prompt the Republicans to compromise in face of a viable alternative?
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