“I cannot believe how stupid this is politically,” Joe Scarborough marveled this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Democratic senators Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar have committed to debating Republican counterparts Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy in a CNN town hall Monday moderated by Jake Tapper. The subject will be health-care reform, but it will inevitably be framed as a contest between Graham-Cassidy and socialized medicine via Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill, costs of which are expected to go higher that three trillion dollars a year.
Big question, though — is this moot after John McCain’s announcement? Don’t bet on it:
Graham and Cassidy are the namesake sponsors of a last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ahead of an end-of-the-month deadline, while Sanders introduced a new “Medicare for all” health care bill with a third of the Senate Democratic caucus by his side.
According to the chamber’s parliamentarian, senators only have until the end of the month to pass a bill with just 51 votes under the procedure known as reconciliation, and the Senate’s latest push isn’t all that different than the one that ultimately resulted in a health care bill being passed in the House. …
Meanwhile, Sanders is pushing for his bill. He called the costs of the current system “insane and unaffordable,” promising that the average family would benefit financially under his plan “because you will no longer be writing checks to private insurance companies.”
Sanders, a Vermont independent, ran a hard-fought campaign for the Democratic presidential primary last year. Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is up for re-election next year, was not among those senators who co-sponsored Sanders’ bill.
Given all of the flak that Graham and Cassidy have taken over their bill, it’s no small wonder they want to frame it as the last bulwark against full-blown socialized medicine. In fact, that may be the only argument that would get them 50 votes in the Senate by the end of next week, which still looks like a long shot.
But, er … what will Democrats get out of this comparison? They’re already worried that Bernie’s single-payer talk has given Republicans this opening to devolve (some) authority back to the states. An entire prime-time debate that makes socialized medicine the only option to ObamaCare repeal will play right into Republican hands at the very moment Democrats need to slow down their momentum. Klobuchar may not have embraced Sanders’ bill, but she’s not exactly a hard no on it either, and she lacks the dynamism to outshine Sanders in the opposition. In fact, one has to wonder why Klobuchar agreed to this pairing at all, as it’s likely to end any support she’ll get as a potential centrist option for 2020.
All of this has a number of Democrats scratching their heads, and Joe completely mystified. “You’re actually going to drive a lot of people toward Lindsey Graham’s bill,” he predicts. Not any more, I guess, but at least Bernie gets some prime-time promotion for the other bill that has only a snowball’s chance in Hades of passing, right? Maybe they’ll convince McCain to change his mind.
One last question: Don’t senators already have a forum for debate, complete with national television coverage? Maybe Bernie should just stick with that.