Sanders aides dispute Clinton claim that senator was absent in '90s health care fights

Story highlights

  • "Well, I don't know where he was when I was trying to get health care in '93 and '94," Clinton said of Sanders
  • The problem: Sanders attended an event with her to push health care reform in 1993 and introduced his own single-payer health care plan in March of that year
Watch CNN's Democratic Town Hall, co-hosted by TV One, Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.

St. Louis (CNN)Hillary Clinton on Saturday questioned where Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was when she was fighting for expanding health care as first lady in 1993 and 1994.

"We are going to pull together and stay together and stand up against those powerful forces. And I always get a little chuckle when I hear my opponent talking about doing it," Clinton said at an event here. "Well, I don't know where he was when I was trying to get health care in '93 and '94, standing up the insurance companies, standing up against the drug companies."
    The problem: Sanders attended an event with her to push health care reform in 1993 and introduced his own single-payer health care plan in March of that year. And Clinton wrote him a hand-written thank you note for his work on the issue in 1993.
    Some of Sanders' aides quickly tweeted a photo on Saturday of Sanders standing behind Clinton at an event at Dartmouth College on December 7, 1993.
    "I am grateful that Congressman Sanders could join us today from Vermont," Clinton said at the event.
    Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton's communications director, argued after Clinton knocked Sanders that the video of the then-Vermont congressman standing behind the first lady "proves our point."
    "Hillary Clinton was out in front. Senator Sanders was in the background. She is the one that took the slings and arrows from the health care industry," Palmieri said, adding later that in the video pushed by the Sanders campaign, "He is literally standing behind her, she is literally the one out front, as she was 20-25 years ago."
    Palmieri added, "If you look at the public record, I do not think you are going to find a lot of evidence of senator sanders working very hard to push for this health care bill to pass. She is the one who worked."
    Sanders introduced the "Health Care as a Right for All" bill on March 4, 1993, in the middle of Clinton's push for health care reform. The legislation would have created a single-payer universal health care system, something Clinton entertained but eventually did not include in her health care push.
    Clinton wrote a hand-written thank you to Sanders for his work on what came to be known as Hillarycare, the Clinton White House's efforts to pass comprehensive healthcare reform that was spearheaded by the then-first lady.
    "To Bernie Sanders with thanks for your commitment to real health care access for all Americans and best wishes," Clinton wrote on a picture of the two talking. The picture includes a note and is signed "Hillary Rodham Clinton" and dated 1993.
    Clinton's knock against Sanders on Saturday came moments after the former secretary of state hit Sanders for "misrepresenting my record and his own."
    "That is his choice," Clinton said of Sanders.
    Clinton and Sanders are locked in an all-out sprint to contests in Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and North Carolina on Tuesday. Sanders has some momentum coming out of Michigan, where he unexpectedly beat Clinton by 2% earlier this week.
    Clinton aides are confident they will win in Florid and North Carolina, but are worried about "toss ups" in Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, states that are more economically and demographically similar to Michigan.