Washington (CNN)Sen. Kamala Harris is the first Democrat to announce she'll co-sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders' single-payer health care bill when it's introduced in September.
The California freshman -- seen as a rising star in the party and a 2020 presidential prospect -- revealed her plans to back Sanders' legislation at a town hall Wednesday night in Oakland.
"Here, I'll break some news: I intend to co-sponsor the Medicare-for-all bill, because it's just the right thing to do," Harris said. She announced her support for Sanders' single-payer plan at the end of her town hall and joked that "somebody should tell my staff."
Her co-sponsorship is another sign that the Democratic Party is increasingly embracing a shift away from the private health insurance market and toward a government-run program. The issue is poised to become a major litmus test for its presidential candidates in 2020.
It comes just 20 months after the party's last standard-bearer in a presidential election, Hillary Clinton, called Sanders' single-payer proposal "a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass."
"This is about understanding, again, that health care should be a right, not a privilege. And it's also about being smart," Harris said. "It is so much better that people have meaningful access to affordable health care at every stage of life, from birth on. Because the alternative is that we as taxpayers otherwise are paying huge amounts of money for them to get their health care in an emergency room.
So it's not only about what is morally and ethically right, it also makes sense from a fiscal standpoint, or if you want to talk about it as a return on investment for taxpayers."
The early endorsement from Harris could clear the way for more Democrats to co-sponsor the bill. Already this summer, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand have announced their support for single-payer health insurance.
Sanders tweeted his thanks to Harris on Wednesday night. "Let's make health care a right, not a privilege," he wrote.
I know someone probably already posted this, but i was so shocked i thought i should post it anyways...i am usually skeptical of neoliberal political plays(ie chris cuomo's college tuition bill that had tons of self defeating asterisks), but if harris is serious about supporting this kind of thing and disavowing her mixed civil rights record, i express cautious optimism that this could grow with more support. just the fact that people are now latching on to this bill before its even officially presented as opposed to what happend when bernie last introduced a single payer bill in the congress, speaks a lot of volumes about how the debate has been shifted due to him and Conyers continuing to push for this, even if there's still plenty of corporate resistance.
And to those who say that this issue puts dems in untenable positions in a right wing congress, no one progressive is arguing for single payer being implemented right now, but something they should advocate for as an end goal if they are ever to retake power, and really fight to that end.