The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sanders won’t vote for Republican ‘single-payer’ amendment

Sen. Bernie Sanders, together with Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren (right), speaks to supporters outside the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 25, 2017, after the Senate voted to start debating Republican legislation to tear down much of the Obama health-care law. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)
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A spokesman for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Wednesday night that he and other members of the Democratic caucus would reject an amendment to the Republican health-care bill designed to smoke out support for single-payer health care. The amendment proposed by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), said a Sanders spokesman, was a “sham” that could be ignored.

“The Democratic caucus will not participate in the Republicans’ sham process,” said Sanders spokesman Josh Miller-Lewis. “No amendment will get a vote until we see the final legislation and know what bill we are amending. Once Republicans show us their final bill, Sen. Sanders looks forward to getting a vote on his amendment that makes clear the Senate believes the United States must join every major country and guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege.”

The Daines amendment, which the Montana senator has admitted he won’t actually vote for, will propose the text of a “Medicare for All” bill backed by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). Sanders, who has delayed the release of his own single-payer bill until the end of the health-care debate — a decision that has pushed back his bill several times — was not quite the target of Daines’s amendment. Democrats saw it as a ploy to get some of the party’s more vulnerable senators to vote “against single payer,” angering the party’s base.

But Sanders’s decision to oppose the amendment effectively absolves other Democrats, some of whom may still reject his own bill when it’s released next month.