Sanders Seeks Role as Senate Health Chair With “Focus on Universal Health Care”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) introduced on Thursday that he’s searching for to change into the chair of a robust Senate committee that has huge affect over what he’s planning to prioritize within the function: Medicare for All, employees’ rights and inexpensive school.

The Vermont senator is more likely to take the helm of the Senate Well being, Schooling, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the place he has beforehand served as a member. From the highest spot, he’ll have the ability to steer the committee’s priorities on well being coverage and different areas of particular curiosity to progressives.

“As chairman of the committee, he’ll deal with common healthcare, reducing the price of pharmaceuticals, growing entry to greater training, and defending employees’ rights on the job,” Sanders’s communications director Mike Casca mentioned in an announcement.

Sanders’s HELP chairmanship may result in an development in priorities that he has beforehand advocated for however that haven’t essentially taken maintain amongst different members of Congress; he may, for example, pursue legislation like his bipartisan proposal to safely import medication from different international locations in an effort to decrease costs for sufferers.

In the meantime, he would have a larger, more visible platform to champion Medicare for All, for which he has advocated relentlessly for years; earlier this 12 months, he launched laws to ascertain Medicare for All within the U.S., which is the one rich nation on the earth and not using a common well being care system. Although the concept is way from having sufficient votes to move, his advocacy may assist sway senators to his aspect.

“I feel there’s a caricature on the market of Bernie Sanders that doesn’t pay attention to the truth that the man is a politician who has been doing this for a very very long time,” Social Safety Works executive director Alex Lawson told The Washington Post. “He is aware of the right way to work along with his colleagues.”

In lieu of Medicare for All, for example, Sanders has spent the final couple of years relentlessly advocating for the reducing of prescription drug costs, introducing payments to permit Medicare to barter drug costs and commissioning experiences to focus on the difficulty.

He has additionally pushed for the growth of Medicare to incorporate dental, imaginative and prescient and listening to — a measure that has help amongst a large set of Democrats within the Senate, however that has been rejected by pharma-funded conservative Democrats Senators Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) and Joe Manchin (West Virginia).

Sanders’s chairmanship could possibly be a headache for the pharmaceutical business, which is infamous for being probably the most highly effective foyer in Washington. As one pharmaceutical lobbyist instructed The Washington Put up, “He’ll go after [the drug companies] at each flip, and so they solely have a pair pals left within the caucus any extra so it’s going to be robust.”

The HELP Committee additionally has wide jurisdiction over federal labor rules on points like wages and dealing situations, which means that Sanders’s chairmanship may advance his agenda to increase employees’ rights in a pivotal time for the labor motion. Sanders has tried to get the federal minimum wage raised to $15 an hour — a problem that falls below the purview of the HELP Committee — however was shot down by Sinema and Manchin in 2021.

Different points just like the Defending the Proper to Set up (PRO) Act, which might massively improve employees’ union and collective bargaining rights, additionally fall below the HELP Committee’s jurisdiction, and will see motion below Sanders. The invoice handed the Home final 12 months however by no means got here to a vote within the Senate, the place it solely went so far as being referred to the HELP committee. Sanders may direct the committee to take a vote on the invoice or maintain hearings on the proposal and on employees’ rights at massive.