California Sen. Kamala Harris announced for the first time Wednesday night that she will sponsor a single-payer healthcare plan. Fellow Sen. Bernie Sanders is prepping a "Medicare for All" bill that's yet to be introduced, and Harris is the first Democrat to publicly pledge her support.
"It's just the right thing to do," Harris said at a town hall in her hometown of Oakland. "It's not just about what is morally and ethically right, it also makes sense just from a fiscal standpoint."
Following Republicans' efforts to repeal much of Obamacare that stalled in the Senate earlier this year, Sanders' bill will be the exact opposite. Likely to be introduced in the next month, it would create a federally administered single-payer healthcare program funded by taxes and employer premiums.
Sanders has long touted single-payer healthcare, but more moderate Democrats (including his 2016 primary rival, Hillary Clinton) were never on board. And Harris is now at odds with the senior senator from her state, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who said at a town hall in April: "If single-payer healthcare is going to mean a complete government takeover over of the health care system, I am not for it."
But others Senate Democrats, including Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Cory Booker (NJ) have recently spoken in support of single-payer, though none have outwardly backed Sanders' bill yet.
After Harris confirmed her support for Sanders' plan in a tweet Wednesday night, the Vermont senator responded by saying: "Thank you @KamalaHarris for your support. Let's make health care a right, not a privilege."
Thank you @KamalaHarris for your support. Let's make health care a right, not a privilege. https://t.co/hYbxTq8BVH— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 30, 2017
In the House, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) also reintroduced his single-payer legislation earlier this year. His bill got more support than it has in previous years, suggesting that there's more support from Democrats to extend Medicare to everyone than in the past.
However, neither Conyers nor Sanders have enough support to pass their proposals right now, as there's still no consensus within the party on how to handle healthcare.