Sen. Bernie Sanders rolled out his 'Medicare for all' plan earlier this week
The Congressional Black Caucus holds its legislative conference next week
Our weekly roundup of the news, notes and chatter about the prospects for the next Democratic presidential race:
How seismic a shake-up would California deliver to the 2020 Democratic race if – in a move lawmakers could approve Friday – it shifts its primary to the first Tuesday in March, slotting the state in right after the traditional first four contests?
“Very big deal,” one veteran Democratic strategist said. “It’s huge,” another said.
“On every measure – time, travel, money, media – it seems to me that the early four would go through the traditional motions but the action would be out West,” said a Democratic strategist in one of those early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
So which prospective candidates would benefit from the move? Another Democratic operative said: “The more (demographically) representative states that go earlier make it harder for a niche candidate to win, and the bigger states that go earlier make it harder for a candidate with no national profile to raise money to win. This is good news for everyone from Joe Biden to Kamala Harris and bad news for everyone from Bernie Sanders to Tim Ryan.”
Then, there’s the possibility that an earlier California primary could trigger other state moves. Oregon’s secretary of state on Thursday called for its contest to be moved to March, while Washington’s state legislature has considered the same move. The South’s so-called SEC primary, meanwhile, might need to be moved back a week.
The primary move is part of California lawmakers’ long list of items to give final votes before wrapping up their session late Friday night. Then, it’d head to Gov. Jerry Brown, a two-time presidential candidate himself for a final sign-off or veto. One word of caution: Important bills are sometimes victims of the end-of-session crush, with too many last-minute deals to strike and votes to cast and too little time — so this might not all wrap up neatly Friday night.
News and notes:
SANDERS’ SINGLE-PAYER ROLLOUT: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders finally unveiled his long-awaited single-payer “Medicare for all” bill this week – with 16 Democratic co-sponsors. Most of the 2020 contenders are on the list. One Democratic senator up for re-election in a Trump state — Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin – is, too. This positions Sanders as a thought leader on what will be one of the central domestic policy debates of the next presidential race.
— The two most interesting names who did not co-sponsor the bill: Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who’s up for re-election, and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who is working on a bill that would let all Americans buy into Medicare. Murphy also said single-payer “should not be a litmus test for Democrats.”
BIDEN TAKES ON TRUMP: In an op-ed from The New York Times on Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden blasted President Donald Trump, accusing him of undercutting American values and diminishing the United States’ standing in the world. “Mr. Trump’s shameful defense of the white nationalists and neo-Nazis who unleashed hatred and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, further abnegated America’s moral leadership. Not since the Jim Crow era has an American president so misunderstood and misrepresented our values,” Biden wrote. He called Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program “an unnecessary cruelty that further undermines America’s standing in the world.”
HARRIS BACKS FEINSTEIN FOR RE-ELECTION: California Sen. Kamala Harris backed her in-state colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein, saying she’s with Feinstein “100%” and “will be front and center supporting her” if she runs for re-election in 2018. This comes despite mounting frustration on the left with what some progressive activists see as her willingness to work with Trump and her failure to block Trump judicial nominees – compounded by Feinstein’s criticism of single-payer as unfeasible this week.
Harris praised Feinstein to Politico’s Carla Marinucci for championing the 1990s assault weapons ban and her role in exposing the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. “She and I are on the intelligence committee together … and she is forceful and clear-thinking,” Harris said. “And the way I see her conduct herself … definitely reflects California’s values. She fights in those committee hearings and behind closed doors.” A separate, but also interesting note: Harris is now more popular than Feinstein in California.
MERKLEY’S SIX-EVENT, 40-HOUR IOWA WHIRLWIND: Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley – progressive activist organizations’ glue guy in the Senate – was all over the place in Iowa last weekend. Per The Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble: “Immediately upon arriving Saturday night, he attended a reception thrown by the Iowa Democratic Party. After the (Progress Iowa) corn feed, he met with Polk County Democratic activists and some of Sanders’s top supporters from the 2016 presidential campaign at separate events. … On Monday, he … (chatted) with Drake University students at a meeting organized by the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement, followed by a get-together with business leaders at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. That’s six events in about 40 hours.”
AUMF AND STRANGE ALLIES: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican, pushed unsuccessfully for the Senate to repeal the early-2000s war authorizations allowing the United States to fight terrorism across the globe. (Paul’s argument: It’s time for a new, updated authorization.) The effort failed — but the entire lineup of Democratic 2020 prospects voted with Paul.
The week ahead:
— Saturday, September 16: The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Fall Banquet in Des Moines features Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and James Lankford of Oklahoma.
— Monday, September 18: Hillary Clinton’s book tour hits Warner Theater in Washington. Those with tickets to the 7 p.m. event are selling them for nearly $900.
— Tuesday, September 19: Biden will host a 4 p.m. Biden Institute roundtable on jobs. Among the participants: Trump Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
— Wednesday, September 20: The Congressional Black Caucus annual legislative conference kicks off at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. It runs through September 24. Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker are CBC members.
Before you go:
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand lambasted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for rolling back campus sexual assault guidelines in a Cosmopolitan op-ed. … A Republican 2024 watch note: Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner will headline an October 12 fundraiser for the South Carolina GOP. … Minnesota Sen. Al Franken is raising privacy questions about the new iPhone X’s Face ID feature.
CNN’s Ashley Killough, Caroline Kenny, Sophie Tatum, Saba Hamedy, Miranda Green, Betsy Klein and Greg Krieg contributed to this memo.