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Dems' single-payer strategy backfired

Michael Ahrens - September 20, 2017

Several Democrats are already blasting last week’s rollout of Bernie’s plan, though they shouldn’t be surprised that the 2020 wannabes would never miss an opportunity to appeal to their far-left base.

Those not running for president in 2020 admit it “wasn’t being smart” and are calling it “premature” for Democrats to rally behind a government takeover of health care. NBC’s Katy Tur pressed Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) on timing of the rollout, and Politico’s Elana Schor spoke with several Democrats about the flawed strategy.

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Did Democrats jump the gun with single-payer splash?
Politico
Elana Schor
September 19, 2017 – 7:02 PM
http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/19/bernie-sanders-single-payer-obamacare-242894

There's second-guessing inside the party about Bernie Sanders' timing as Republicans take aim again at Obamacare.

Last week, a group of Senate Democrats rallied behind single-payer health care at a splashy press conference. This week, the same group is scrambling to beat back the GOP's latest Obamacare repeal blitz.

The contrast shows the chasm between the two parties’ approach to health care: Republicans claim that Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” pitch fueled their revival of repeal, an argument that even Democratic single-payer foes dismiss as untrue. Yet some Democrats wish more attention had been paid to protecting the Affordable Care Act before some of the party's biggest names turned to single-payer.

“I thought that anyone who believed that you should take your eye off the ball before Sept. 30 wasn’t being smart,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who does not support single-payer. “So it doesn’t surprise me that this is coming back.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) acknowledged that “maybe” the single-payer rollout had been premature, recalling a Methodist minister who once advised him as governor that “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Sanders' single-payer plan drew support from no fewer than five fellow potential challengers to President Donald Trump in 2020. Liberal activists crowed that any Democrat who wants the party's next presidential nod would have to support a path to universal health care.

The same cast of liberal luminaries, including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), is now turning to stoking grass-roots fury about the new Republican repeal plan.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the minority whip, said it “remains to be seen” whether Democrats shifted too quickly to debating single-payer even as Obamacare repeal was still lurking.

Though no Democratic senator faulted single-payer’s supporters, some in the party lamented the choice to unveil single-payer before the GOP reached its deadline to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority vote. Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are working hard to lock down Republican support for repeal, and they're close. A climactic vote could come next week, as the clock runs out on any hope of getting rid of Obamacare.

“Doing it when he did it was a gift to the repealers,” one Democratic strategist said of Sanders’ single-payer push. “It took focus off them and put it on us at an unhelpful time.”

One Senate Democratic aide wondered if the single-payer splash could have waited until next month, when the GOP's window to repeal Obamacare with 50 votes will have closed.

“It’s the timing that’s the problem,” the aide said. “If this was introduced Oct. 1, that’d be one thing, but this is almost perfectly timed to make it harder to defend the ACA.”

“We should be trying to save the most progressive health care overhaul in decades, because it’s really at risk. But instead, they’re riling up the base over single payer, making the perfect the enemy of the good at the worst possible moment,” the person added.

A liberal activist whose group supports single-payer health care sounded a similar note, saying that the timing of Sanders’ rollout had handed “Republicans a lot of space” to quietly twist arms on the Cassidy-Graham repeal plan.

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