Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday that she will co-sponsor the Medicare-for-All bill that Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plans to introduce later this month. Harris made her support clear in an Oakland town hall.
“It is so much better that people have meaningful access to affordable health care at every stage of life, from birth on,” Harris said. “It’s not only about what is morally and ethically right, it also makes sense from a fiscal standpoint, or if you want to talk about it as a return on investment for taxpayers.” The senator reiterated her intentions on Twitter.
I intend to co-sponsor the Medicare for All bill because it’s just the right thing to do.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 30, 2017
This move comes as a surprise to many progressive activists, who were becoming increasingly skeptical of Harris due to her being pushed as a 2020 presidential candidate by the Democratic establishment. Left-leaning media outlets like MSNBC and The Washington Post named Harris as a rising star within the Democratic Party with “a huge financial launchpad to a presidential bid.”
Her fundraising is the primary concern for the Sanders’ wing of the party. Harris attended a fundraising event in the Hamptons where she courted major Democratic donors. The most notable one was Michael Kempner, a staunch fundraiser for President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic National Committee.
The biggest mark against Harris is her past with Steven Mnuchin, the current Secretary of the Treasury. As California Attorney General, Harris chose not to prosecute OneWest Bank, a financial institution run by Mnuchin, even though she was that Mnuchin committed foreclosure violations. The connection became more troubling after Harris was the only Democratic candidate Mnuchin donated to during the 2016 Senate elections.
Prior to Harris’ announcement, People for Bernie co-founder Winnie Wong referred to the senator as “the preferred candidate of extremely wealthy and out-of-touch Democratic party donors” who will need to support universal healthcare for greater political prospects. After Harris did just that, Wong says that Harris is “meeting her constituents where they are. I see this as a pragmatic political decision.”
“In terms of where the progressives live, I don’t think there’s any ‘there’ there,” executive director of National Nurses United RoseAnn DeMoro said in July to The New York Times. According to CNN, DeMoro now has “cautious optimism” for Harris. Harris’ new direction has strengthened her credibility amongst the populist left.
The Medicare-for-All proposal has incredibly low chances of passing under President Donald Trump. However, it is becoming a litmus test within the Democratic Party. After being one of the cornerstones of Sanders’ presidential campaign and being declared by Clinton as something that “will never ever come to pass”, Medicare-for-All has gained majoritarian support from House Democrats.
Harris’ backing makes her the fourth Democratic senator to openly push for universal health care. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), both of whom were also deemed 2020 contenders, had given their support with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) earlier this summer. With support from 57 percent of Americans, Medicare-for-All may be the issue Democrats need to coalesce behind if any of them, not just Harris, want to have a political future.
Photo: By Mobilus In Mobili (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons