Surely you've heard by now what Hillary Clinton had to say about Bernie Sanders and health care reform in the 1990s:
And you've probably seen the photo or video of Sanders standing behind Clinton in a 1993 speech on the subject (above) as well as these thankful words from the same year:"I don't know where he was when I was trying to get health care in '93 and '94," a fired up @HillaryClinton says of Sanders.— Amy Chozick (@amychozick) March 12, 2016
The optics of this, admittedly, aren't flattering to Hillary and she should have been more careful with her wording of the criticism. But none of the pushback really answers her point: Just where was Bernie when the Clintons were trying to pass health care reform?Clinton today: "I don't know where he was when I was trying to get health care." Clinton in '93: pic.twitter.com/H4ETjeH4gU— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) March 12, 2016
Having listened to Sanders on the campaign trail for the past year or so, my guess is that he wanted single-payer and wouldn't compromise, therefore being not much help to the Clintons as they were fighting like hell for the Health Security Act well into 1994.
But it turns out that none of us have to guess, because Sanders himself wrote about it in his 1997 memoir Outsider in the House (later renamed and re-released in 2015 as Outsider in the White House):
So by his own admission, Bernie Sanders didn't support the Clinton health care initiative (which had a shot at passing) and instead backed a single-payer plan (which had zero chance at passing).
And now we know why Hillary Clinton said what she did the other day.
The White House needed every single Democratic (and democratic socialist) vote that they could get in order to have any shot at making health care reform a reality. Clearly Hillary was trying to woo Bernie's support, as she surely did with so many others in Congress, but it ultimately didn't work. In the end, Sanders wouldn't compromise, wouldn't support their plan, and ultimately wasn't much help to the Clintons.
But it doesn't stop there. In the same excerpt, he then blames the Health Security Act's failure solely on lobbying and ad spending by the insurance companies rather than a lack of votes for it in Congress! Did he really, seriously believe that there wouldn't have been a similar (or likely far worse) opposition effort if single-payer had a real shot at becoming law? Please.
He doesn't sound too bothered that 'Hillarycare' went up in flames, does he? It wasn't his thing, the insurance companies shot it down anyway, and that's that. But to his credit, perhaps he learned something...because he did end up supporting President Obama's similarly "complicated and compromised" Affordable Care Act in '09 and '10.
Whatever the case, it looks like we have an answer to the question of where Bernie Sanders was on health care reform in '93 and '94: Against the Clintons.
UPDATE: Just three hours after this was published, the Huffington Post has independently confirmed Hillary HQ's report.
But his presence at that speech -- like a gracious letter Clinton sent him in 1993 -- isn't proof that Sanders was a major ally of the Clinton health care effort. Sanders wasn’t even endorsing the Clinton plan, unlike another member of Congress who attended the rally.
And an internal memo from the Bill Clinton administration shows that the White House was worried that Sanders might hold out. "Given his reputation for independence and his more combative style [he] may be of the more difficult members to get on board the Administration’s proposal,” the memo said.
In fact, Sanders opposed the proposal throughout the process, his campaign confirmed to The Huffington Post. As late as August 1994, while Democrats were making a last-ditch effort to pass Clinton’s plan, Sanders held a press conference opposing it -- and touting single-payer, according to his campaign.
Sanders' commitment, or lack thereof, to the White House plan wasn't a cause of its failure, considering staunch resistance from the health care industry, Republicans and conservative Democrats. But Clinton clearly hasn't forgotten it.