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Bernie Sanders' 'Medicare for All' Plan Is Popular — For Now

At least 15 Democratic senators have signed on to Sanders’ bill, and they include many of the party’s other 2020 potential presidential candidates.
Image: Rally Against Effort of Repeal Affordable Care Act in New York
People gather during a rally against efforts by the Republican party in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act in New York, NY on July 24, 2017.Justin Lane / EPA

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

As Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduces his single-payer “Medicare for All Act” today, the legislation couldn’t be more popular.

At least 15 Democratic senators have signed on to Sanders’ bill, and they include many of the party’s other 2020 potential presidential candidates (from Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand to Cory Booker). What’s more, a June 2017 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 53 percent of Americans supporting single payer — the highest level of support on this Kaiser question dating back to 1998. And when called “Medicare for All,” that support grows to 57 percent.

But that’s not the entire story: When respondents were presented with an argument that single payer/”Medicare for All” would raise taxes, opposition grew from 40 percent to 60 percent. And when presented with an argument that the plan would give the government too much control, disapproval went up to 62 percent.

And here is how Republicans are already hitting Democrats on the issue: “Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders plans to introduce his single-payer health care legislation [Wednesday], but Tammy Baldwin cannot wait to tell folks that she supports his $32 trillion health care plan,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee said. Baldwin is the sole backer of Sanders’ bill from a state President Trump carried in 2016, and she’s up for re-election next year.

Strikingly, Sanders — for now — is leaving out the raising-taxes component from his legislation. “As he described his legislation, Sanders focused on its simplicity, suggesting that Americans would be happy to pay higher taxes if it meant the end of wrangling with health-care companies. The size of the tax increase, he said, would be determined in a separate bill,” the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel writes. “‘Rather than give a detailed proposal about how we’re going to raise $3 trillion a year, we’d rather give the American people options,’ Sanders said.”

Then again, did Republicans making the same arguments against the milder version of Obamacare — “It’s a government takeover!” “It’s going to raise your taxes” — blunt some of the attacks against single payer? We’ll find out in 2018, 2020 and probably beyond. And Baldwin is going to be your canary in the coal mine.

Sanders says his bill will be phased in over four years

Here’s some other reading on the subject. Bernie Sanders’ op-ed in The New York Times: “The transition to the Medicare for All program would take place over four years. In the first year, benefits to older people would be expanded to include dental care, vision coverage and hearing aids, and the eligibility age for Medicare would be lowered to 55. All children under the age of 18 would also be covered. In the second year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 45 and in the third year to 35. By the fourth year, every man, woman and child in the country would be covered by Medicare for All.”

But here’s Democratic strategist Bill Scher writing in Politico: “Democrats are committing themselves to years more of treacherous health care debate, at a time when there are more pressing issues to confront. They are emulating Donald Trump’s penchant for quick-fix, bumper-sticker solutions that prove to be, in his own words, more ‘complicated’ once in power. And instead of maintaining a candid relationship with its ideological base in order to temper expectations, the party establishment is indulging it, risking bitter disappointment in the future.”

Do the White House’s attacks on Comey amount to witness intimidation?

Back in June, after President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey and after he raised the specter of “tapes” of their conversations, some legal and ethics experts charged that the president was engaging in potential witness intimidation.

And was the White House doing the same thing yesterday from the press secretary’s podium? “I think there is no secret Comey, by his own self-admission, leaked privileged government information,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “His actions were improper and likely could have been illegal.” When Huckabee Sanders was asked if Trump would encourage the Justice Department to prosecute Comey, she answered, “That's not the President's role. That’s the job of the Department of Justice, and something they should certainly look at.”

When asked later if she was encouraging the Justice Department to investigate Comey, Huckabee Sanders said, “I'm not here to ever direct DOJ into actions that they should take.”

Remember, Comey is likely to be a key witness in the Russia investigation that special counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing.

Legislative efforts to fix DACA take a step backwards

There’s a strong assumption in Washington that Congress will find a way to fix the DACA program, which President Trump’s administration rescinded last week. But congressional action took a step backwards yesterday, The New York Times says.

“Representative Mike Coffman, Republican of Colorado, pulled back a petition he had initiated to force the House to take up legislation to protect so-called Dreamers. A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into the issue was canceled this week. And Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he would not move on any such legislation before he addressed criminal alien gangs and border security.”

NBC’s Alex Moe reports that House Speaker Paul Ryan will meet with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and others at 5:00 pm ET to discuss a way forward on the issue.

Trump’s voter fraud panel clashes in New Hampshire

NBC’s Dartunorro Clark: “At the commission's second public meeting, Kris Kobach, the panel's vice chairman and Kansas' secretary of state, defended a claim he made last week that it was ‘highly likely’ that votes cast by nonresidents of the state influenced the result, a charge that New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a member of the commission, dismissed.”

“Voting experts say there is no evidence of voter fraud. State law allows people who live in the state but do not have New Hampshire driver's licenses to vote. Gardner, a Democrat, pushed back on Kobach's claims, saying: ‘What you wrote is that the question of whether our elections that we have recorded is real and valid. And it is real and valid.’”

Democrats pick up two more state legislative seats

In special election contests last night, Democratic candidates flipped two more seats — in the Oklahoma and New Hampshire State Houses — from red to blue. That makes a total of six state legislative pickups for Democrats this cycle. (Republicans have netted one so far, in Louisiana, although no Democrats even filed to run in that deeply conservative district.) What’s more, the wins continued a pattern of significant overperformance by Democrats over Trump’s 2016 margins in the same areas; Democrat Jacob Rosecrants in Oklahoma won 60 percent of the vote in a district that went 52-41 for Trump, per tracking by DailyKos, while Democrat Charlie St. Clair in New Hampshire won 56-44 in a district that Trump captured by an even greater margin — 56 to 39 — last fall.