In an apparent attempt to appease progressives in her party, Sen. Kamala Harris became the first moderate Democrat to announce she’ll co-sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” health care bill when it’s introduced in September.
In the past, Harris had said she supported single-payer “as a concept” but that lawmakers still needed to “work out the details.” Her announcement that she will co-sponsor Sanders’ bill is the first time she has unequivocally come out in support of a single-payer system.
In making her announcement at a town hall in Oakland, Harris said, “I intend to co-sponsor the bill because it’s just the right thing to do;” adding, “It’s not just about what is morally and ethically right, it also makes sense if you look at it from a fiscal standpoint.”
Not unlike the battle between Tea Partiers and traditional conservatives on the right, a battle between progressives and moderates on the left has intensified in the aftermath of the last election.
Sanders’ staunch support for a single-payer system has led to speculation that he and his supporters might launch primary challenges against Democrats who do not back his bill. Harris has been criticized in the past by key Sanders backers who have expressed doubts that she will be able to win-over the party’s progressive wing.
RoseAnn DeMoro, the Executive Director of the National Nurses Union, questions whether Harris will adopt the progressive position that the insurance industry has no role in the single-payer system: “Bernie says that. Will she?”
Separately, when asked about Harris as a candidate for president, DeMoro said she didn’t like her chances: “She’s one of the people the Democratic party is putting up. In terms of where the progressives live, I don’t think there’s any ‘there’ there.”
“People for Bernie” co-founders Nomiki Konst and Winnie Wong also chimed in. Konst said, “She [Harris] is not on our radar.”
Wong, creator of the now famous #FeelTheBern hashtag said Harris is the preferred candidate only among “big money” Democratic party donors who she described as “extremely wealthy and out-of-touch.” She fears these donors “would have considerable sway” over Harris as candidate.
At the same time, many Democrats saw the criticism of Harris as a needless and counterproductive jab at a rising star in the party. Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden feigned astonishment that hard-left Bernie-backers “have it in” for moderates like Harris and Corey Booker tweeting, “So odd, no, that these folks have (it) in for Kamala Harris and Cory Booker?” Tanden, referring to her party’s widening rift, clearly doesn’t think it’s odd at all.
Defending her decision to co-sponsor Bernie’s bill, Harris flatly stated: “This is about understanding, again, that health care should be a right, not a privilege. And it’s also about being smart,” Harris said. ” She believes taxpayers are still paying “huge amounts of money for uninsured people to get their health care in an emergency room.” The single payer system would remedy that problem. She adds that it’s not just about what is right. it also makes sense from a fiscal standpoint.
Sanders thanked Harris for her support tweeting, “Let’s make health care a right, not a privilege.”
Below are 2 videos from popular progressive voices, reacting to this news:
Secular Talk (Kyle):
Humanist Report (Mike):