- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 10, 2016

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party continued tacking left over the weekend and offering olive branches to Sen. Bernard Sanders on health care, reforms to the nation’s drug laws, minimum wage and other key issues — though they also handed him a stinging defeat on trade.

Mrs. Clinton on Saturday unveiled a health care plan that includes the so-called “public option” that Mr. Sanders and other progressives long have been pushing for as a steppingstone toward universal coverage.

While it stops far short of the Medicare-for-all system Mr. Sanders envisions, it goes further than Mrs. Clinton had gone previously during the primary and further than President Obama was able to go in the Affordable Care Act.

Mrs. Clinton’s plan, which Mr. Sanders took partial credit for, comes as the Democratic Party formally adopted other pieces of the Vermont senator’s agenda at its weekend meeting, including a pathway toward the legalization of marijuana and a call for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Those two developments, combined with Mrs. Clinton’s adoption last week of a Sanders-style debt-free college plan, offer concrete proof that Mr. Sanders’ campaign has had a tangible effect at pushing both the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party as a whole in a more liberal direction.

“We got 80 percent of what we wanted in this platform,” top Sanders adviser Warren Gunnels told CNN after the party adopted the marijuana and minimum wage positions.

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But Mr. Sanders and his supporters also suffered a defeat over the weekend when the party refused to include in its platform explicit opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal the senator has long opposed and that Mrs. Clinton initially supported before reversing course and coming out against during the primary campaign.

Progressive groups expressed outrage at the move and said the Democratic Party, and Mrs. Clinton, must take a tougher stand against the TPP, which has the strong support of the Obama administration and many congressional Republicans, though GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump is a chief critic of the deal.

On health care, Mrs. Clinton’s adoption of a public option — which Mr. Obama initially tried to implement as part of his namesake health care legislation — likely brings her closer to landing Mr. Sanders’ endorsement later this week.

Her plan would establish a public-option insurance plan in every state and would allow those over 55 to opt in to Medicare.

“We have more work to do to finish our long fight to provide universal, quality, affordable health care to everyone in America,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement over the weekend. “Already, the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage to 20 million Americans. As president, I will make sure Republicans never succeed in their attempts to strip away their care and that the remaining uninsured should be able to get the affordable coverage they need to stay healthy.”

Her proposal also calls for significant increases in funding for health centers across the country.

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Mr. Sanders, just as he did last week in praising Mrs. Clinton’s debt-free college plan, made clear that his campaign deserves as much credit as his opponent’s.

“The goal of health care reform in America should be to do what every other major country on earth does, and that is to guarantee health care for all as a right,” the senator said in a statement. “The proposal brought forth today by Secretary Clinton, working with our campaign, is an important step forward in expanding health care in America — and expanding health insurance and health care access to tens of millions of Americans.”

Mr. Sanders, an independent who describes himself as a socialist democrat, provided the fiercest challenge to Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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