The Washington Post - 22.08.2019

(Joyce) #1



altoona, iowa — Sen. Bernie
Sanders announced a key change
to his Medicare-for-all insurance
plan Wednesday, a move meant to
assuage fears on the part of orga-
nized labor, whose support is be-
ing heatedly sought by all of the
candidates for the Democratic
presidential nomination.
Labor representatives have ex-
pressed concerns to candidates
publicly and to campaign staffs
privately that a single-payer sys-
tem could negatively affect their
benefits, which in many cases of-
fer better coverage than private
plans. The change announced
Wednesday would effectively give
organized labor more negotiating
power than other consumers
would have under his bill by forc-
ing employers to pay out any mon-
ey they save to union members in
other benefits.
One of the primary concerns
union members and leaders have
raised about Sanders’s Medicare-
for-all plan is that they negotiated
health-care coverage under the
current system, in some cases ced-
ing salary in exchange for those
Under Sanders’s new wrinkle,
those unions could renegotiate
their contracts under the supervi-
sion of the National Labor Rela-
tions Board. “Unions will still be
able to negotiate for and provide
wrap-around services and other
coverage not duplicative of the
benefits established under Medi-
care-for-all,” the plan now says, a
seeming acknowledgment of a
role for private coverage by a cam-
paign that has railed against oth-
ers for not taking a hard-enough
stance against such plans.
A Sanders aide — who spoke on
the condition of anonymity to ex-
plain the change — said the provi-
sion “does not open a door for
private insurance,” which the sen-
ator argues would have an ex-
tremely limited role under his
plan, covering procedures such as
plastic surgery. Instead, said the
aide, the provision is meant to
guarantee that any money compa-
nies save on health-care costs un-
der Medicare-for-all would be re-
invested in workers through in-
creased wages, paid leave or other
Still, the provision represents a
departure for Sanders.
“We are talking to the unions,

obviously. You’re looking at per-
haps the strongest pro- union
member of the United States Con-
gress; we’re going to work with
unions on this issue,” Sanders told
reporters after his remarks
“What they will be able to do is
take health care off the table, be-
cause their members will have
comprehensive health care as a
human right, as well, every other
American and then they can sit
down and negotiate for decent
wages and decent benefits.”
The plan comes as many of
Sanders’s opponents are loosen-
ing their embrace of his Medicare-
for-all plan — even those who had
endorsed it. Earlier this year, Sen.
Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a
Medicare-for-all supporter,
brushed aside concerns that it
would largely replace private in-
surance. But as polls began dem-
onstrating that many voters want-
ed that option to remain, she and

others began adjusting their in-
surance plans.
“I don’t think it was any secret
that I was not entirely comfortable
— that’s an understatement,” Har-
ris said in a recent interview with
The Washington Post. “I finally
was like, ‘I can’t make this circle fit
into a square.’ ”
Former vice president Joe
Biden and a few other candidates
have vocally spurned Medicare-
for-all, insisting that a better alter-
native is improving the Affordable
Care Act pushed through by Dem-
ocrats during the Obama adminis-
Sanders and his staff have cast
the Vermont independent as the
purest liberal in the field, the only
one with an unwavering commit-
ment to undoing the influence of
private health insurance compa-
nies and benefiting unions. Yet
questions about the impact of his
health care plan have continued to
arise. On Monday, at a labor town

hall in Davenport, Iowa, a United
Automobile Workers member
wearing a hard hat stood up to
challenge him.
“You want to put us on a social-
ized health care and get taxed
more for it when we get it for free,
basically, from our employers,” the
man said. “which I worry about
because.. .”
Sanders interrupted him.
“What was your wage increase
this year?” he asked. The man said
he had just been hired, at which
point Sanders interrupted him
again, and explained why the work-
er would no longer need private
insurance under Medicare-for-all.
“The program I’m advocating
will be far more comprehensive
than the program you have. There
will be no deductibles, no co-pays,”
Sanders said, adding that unions
could shift their focus to “wages
and working conditions and pen-
That voter wasn’t the first per-

son to ask Sanders about union
benefits that morning, let alone
during the campaign.
When Sanders appeared
Wednesday at an Iowa Federation
of Labor conference in Altoona,
the sensitivity of the issue was
obvious: Even as he detailed many
elements of his health-care plan,
he did not discuss how union ben-
efits would be handled as part of a
transition to Medicare-for-all, tell-
ing the room of union members he
didn’t have time for all the details.
Kelli Harrison, 54, a political
coordinator for the UAW who is
undecided in the race, said later
that “I kind of like my own insur-
ance... and I don’t want to lose
that, because who knows how
they’ll roll it out.” She, like Biden,
preferred working to improve the
Affordable Care Act. “They
worked so hard to get there. I don’t
know if I want to say, ‘Let’s just
throw it away and start with some-
thing else.’ I don’t think that’s real-

Biden has been endorsed by one
high-profile union, the Interna-
tional Association of Fire Fighters,
but many others have yet to back a
candidate. Bethany Khan, a
spokeswoman for the Culinary
Union, which represents about
60,000 hospitality workers in Ne-
vada and whose endorsement is
coveted, said her union’s leaders
have met with Sanders, Harris,
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
and others.
“We’re telling them that the
unions don’t want to lose their
health care,” Khan said. “It’s built
by workers and run by workers.”
Warren, the candidate whose
catchphrase is “I have a plan for
that,” has yet to announce a
health-care proposal.
“I’m with Bernie on Medicare-
for-all,” Warren said in the first
Democratic debate in July. She did
not bring up specifics about Medi-
care-for-all when she addressed
the Iowa Federation of Labor on
Not all union leaders and mem-
bership are troubled by Medicare-
“If we don’t have to negotiate
health care in our contracts any-
more, that allows us to bargain for
other things, whether it’s an in-
crease in pensions, an increase in
hourly wages,” said Dallas Tully, a
39-year-old UAW member who
caucused for Hillary Clinton in
Sara Nelson, international
president of the Association of
Flight Attendants, also agrees
with Sanders.
“For-profit health care is get-
ting more and more expensive.
Management is coming to the ta-
ble with proposals that shift more
costs to the employees, to down-
grade coverage, to take away
plans. It’s a huge battle,” Nelson
said. “Even if you have a great
plan, one of these so-called ‘Cadil-
lac’ plans, you’re in a for-profit
system... and the experience in
this health-care system continues
to be degraded.”
Nelson said she could see her
union negotiating for benefits cov-
ered by private insurance compa-
nies in addition to what is covered
by Medicare-for-all. The Sanders
campaign has always said, and did
so again Wednesday, that under
Medicare-for-all such coverage
would not be necessary.


Joe Walsh, a pugnacious former
congressman, is preparing a Re-
publican primary challenge to
President Trump that he pre-
viewed as a daily “bar fight” with
the incumbent over his morality
and competency.
Mark Sanford, a former South
Carolina governor and congress-
man, said he is inching closer to a
bid of his own by sounding out
activists in New Hampshire and
other early-voting states about an
insurgency focused on the bal-
looning deficit.
Jeff Flake, a former U.S. senator
from Arizona and Trump antago-
nist, said he has taken a flurry of
recruitment calls in recent days
from GOP donors rattled by signs
of an economic slowdown and
hungry for an alternative to
And former Ohio governor
John Kasich will head to New
Hampshire next month to “take a
look at things” after experiencing
“an increase” in overtures this
summer, an adviser said.
The anti-Trump movement in-
side the Republican Party — long a
political wasteland — is feeling
new urgency to mount a credible
opposition to Trump before it’s too
late. With state deadlines for nom-
inating contests rapidly ap-
proaching in the fall, potential
candidates face pressure to decide
on running within the next few
weeks. So far, only former Massa-
chusetts governor Bill Weld has
declared that he is running, but he
has struggled to gain traction.
Republicans considering bids,
as well as those trying to draft
other candidates, acknowledge
that defeating Trump appears to
be nearly impossible but argue
that a recession or an unforeseen
change in the political climate
could weaken him enough to
make a primary challenge more
than a Never Trump fantasy.
“Anybody who says, ‘I think I
can beat Donald Trump,’ I think is
stretching it,” Sanford said. “It’s a
daunting task, and it is indeed
preposterous at many different
But Sanford said he recently
returned from a trip to New
Hampshire and is leaning toward
jumping in — “another ‘green light
on go’ versus ‘no go’ ” — and figures

he “could win without winning.”
“If [Trump] gives you a nick-
name and has surrogates rough
you up, you could get a message
out and create a national conver-
sation on what it means to be a
Republican these days and that
could probably be worth the en-
deavor,” Sanford said.
Money will be an immense hur-
dle. Trump and the affiliated com-
mittees raising money for his re-
election bid reported collecting
$105 million in April, May and
June, shattering quarterly rec-
ords. Many traditional Republi-
can donors already are backing
Trump, but anti-Trump organiz-
ers are courting wealthy indepen-
dents or even liberals to contrib-
ute in the GOP primary, if only to
bruise the president and help the
eventual Democratic nominee in
the general election.
Trump’s advisers and allies
have dismissed the efforts as feck-
less plotting by a bloc that has lost
relevance in the GOP. They also
say the Trump campaign has built
significant structural advantages
that have effectively ensured he
will be renominated at the party’s
convention in Charlotte, such as
placing loyalists in leadership
posts at state parties and working
closely with state GOP chairs to
manage the delegate selection
“It’s a free country and people
are allowed to have hobbies,” for-
mer House speaker Newt Gingrich
said with a chuckle when asked
about the primary bustle.
Inside the White House, neither
Trump nor his team considers
Weld or the prospective candi-
dates to be serious threats because
there has been no evidence of a
groundswell of grass-roots sup-
port behind them.
“There’s no discussion of any of

them or any of that,” said Kelly-
anne Conway, counselor to the
president. “None of them even has
risen to the level of a nickname.”
The Republican National Com-
mittee is using aggressive mea-
sures to stave off any possible pri-
mary tussle. RNC members
passed a resolution this year giv-
ing Trump the party’s “undivided
support” and effectively merged
with Trump’s campaign. “Republi-
cans are firmly behind the presi-
dent and any effort to challenge
him in a primary is bound to go
absolutely nowhere,” RNC Chair
Ronna McDaniel said in a state-
A Fox News poll last week had
Trump at 88 percent approval
among Republicans, which was
the rating he had among Republi-
cans in Gallup polling for the first
half of August. The polling outlook
among Republicans in early vot-
ing states is also favorable to
But that hasn’t stopped anti-
Trump Republicans from scram-
bling to map out potential cam-
paigns, driven by varying mixes of
duty, conservative ire, ambition,
vanity and loathing for Trump.
Walsh, now a talk-radio host,
said he voted for Trump in 2016
but concluded after Trump de-
clined in Helsinki last year to con-
front Russian President Vladimir
Putin over election interference
that he was “fundamentally unfit”
for the office. He said he is hud-
dling this week with potential sup-
porters and is leaning toward an-
nouncing a campaign next month.
Referring to Trump, he said:
“He’s a bully and he’s a coward.
Somebody’s got to punch him in
the face every single day.”
Walsh, who has his own history
of incendiary comments, was
elected to the House from Illinois

in 2010 as part of the tea party
wave and served one term. He
described himself as an immigra-
tion hard-liner and said he would
not challenge Trump from the cen-
ter but from the right and on
moral grounds.
Sanford is taking a different
tack. He said that the case against
Trump over morality, decency and
corruption already is being made
by other conservative commenta-
tors, so his prospective candidacy
would fixate almost entirely on
Trump’s deficit spending.
“We really are at a financial
tipping point the likes of which we
haven’t seen in a very long time,”
Sanford said. “Unless we con-
structively engage this issue,
which is not being done, I think
the financial markets will do it for
us, and historically that process
has been bloody for regular, work-
ing, everyday Americans.”
Kasich, meanwhile, is “continu-
ally looking at this race and has
seen an increase in people asking
him to get in,” adviser John Weav-
er said. He is returning to New
Hampshire in September to re-
connect with supporters in the
state in which he finished second
to Trump in the 2016 primary.
“It’s prudent to take a look at
things,” Weaver added.
Weld, a moderate and maverick
who was the Libertarian Party’s
vice-presidential nominee in
2016, acknowledged that his cam-
paign has sputtered, but he plans
to spend much of the fall roaming
around New Hampshire, the first-
in-the-nation primary state that
has elevated past challengers of
“I’ve been thinking for a long
time that the president’s shtick
might begin to wear a little thin,”
Weld said. “It’s not just because of
the tariffs and his economic policy,

but because of how he crossed the
line in going after congressman
Elijah Cummings and Baltimore
as a ‘rat-infested’ city, and then the
outrageous racism of taking on
four minority congresswomen.”
Weld’s campaign, however, is
dealing with its own upheaval. His
political confidant, veteran GOP
strategist Stuart Stevens, depart-
ed on Aug. 1 to work at a pro-Weld
super PAC, and Jennifer Horn qui-
etly exited as Weld’s campaign
manager earlier this summer,
with Weld now in the process of
hiring new advisers.
New Hampshire’s terrain is far
from guaranteed to be fertile for
Trump’s critics. Former Trump
campaign manager Corey Lewan-
dowski is mulling a Senate cam-
paign that could energize Trump’s
most loyal supporters in the state
— and Trump has cultivated his
core voters there with arena rallies
and frequent visits.
“It’s going to be extremely diffi-
cult for any primary candidate to
build the operation required to be
effective,” said Horn, a former
New Hampshire GOP chair.
Despite the daunting odds,
Flake said some Republican do-
nors have “stepped up” their calls
to him in recent days as the stock
market has been rattled. Flake
said they have asked whether he
would reconsider a bid against
Trump, months after he joined
CBS News as a contributor and
ruled out a 2020 campaign.
“They are wondering, if the
economy isn’t stellar next year,
how is the party going to win? By
the president offending more peo-
ple?” Flake said, declining to name
the donors.
Flake said he has told them that
he is unlikely to reconsider his
decision but would keep the door
slightly ajar.
Anthony Scaramucci, once one
of Trump’s biggest boosters on the
White House staff, has turned on
the president and is using his ce-
lebrity to rally Republicans
against his former boss. He an-
nounced Tuesday that he would
create a super PAC, “the Commit-
tee to Dismantle Trump,” to run
advertisements attacking the
“I’m going to throw my own
dough in there, ask others to put
their dough in there, and we’re
going to explain to people what
he’s doing,” Scaramucci told strat-

egists David Axelrod and Mike
Murphy on the “Hacks on Tap”
podcast. He added, “I can grab a
hold of 5, 6, 8 percent of the people
that know he’s nuts and possibly
move them.”
At the center of the fledgling
movement is Bill Kristol, a long-
time conservative commentator,
who has become a power broker
for anti-Trump Republicans —
and a target of scorn for Trump
and his followers.
Kristol directs an outside
group, Republicans for the Rule of
Law, and has played the role of
recruiter, such as when he pitched
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan about
running against Trump at a Balti-
more Orioles game in April. Ho-
gan decided not to run.
Kristol said he respects Weld,
along with others who might run,
but said his “dream scenario”
would be for Trump to weaken this
fall and a more prominent Repub-
lican decide to get in. This would
have echoes of 1968, when then-
President Lyndon B. Johnson’s re-
election campaign was upended
by Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s near
upset in the New Hampshire Dem-
ocratic primary, prompting John-
son to withdraw and Sen. Robert
F. Kennedy to enter the race.
“You need more erosion of
Trump in the polls, maybe an eco-
nomic slowdown, more of a sense
of him coming unglued, but the
key is getting voters to focus on the
question of whether they’re okay
with four more years of Trump in
the Oval Office,” Kristol said.
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the
2012 Republican presidential
nominee, is privately held by
many anti-Trump activists and do-
nors as their preferred standard-
bearer, even though they do not
expect him to run.
While Romney has kept a low
profile in the Senate, he said in a
speech in Salt Lake City on Mon-
day that he considers himself a
“renegade Republican” — and, in a
swipe at Trump, said that “the
likes of Putin and [North Korean
dictator] Kim Jong Un deserve a
censure rather than flattery,” ac-
cording to the Salt Lake Tribune.
But Romney was realistic about
the political dynamics. “My slice of
the Republican Party these days is
about that big,” he said, holding
his hands closely together.

Sanders revises Medicare-for-all plan to appease unions

President’s critics in the Republican Party are considering primary bids

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), shown Wednesday at the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO convention in Altoona, has adjusted his
Medicare-for-all plan to allow organized labor to bargain for benefits that go beyond those covered under Medicare.

Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, center, has declared a GOP primary challenge to President
Trump. Others who are weighing such a bid include, from left, former senator Jeff Flake (Ariz.),
former Ohio governor John Kasich, former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford,
and former congressman Joe Walsh (Ill.). State deadlines for nominating races are nearing in the fall.
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