If elected president in 2020, the Vermont senator told CNN he would favor using the budget reconciliation process to push single-payer legislation through the Senate with a simple majority.
"Before we even get to the issue of the filibuster, we need 51 senators who are prepared to do what the polls show that rank and file Democrats want—and that is a Medicare for All, single-payer system."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
Under current Senate rules, bills that pass through reconciliation cannot add to the budget deficit after ten years, among other restrictions.
But the Vermont senator indicated that the vice president in a Sanders administration would be prepared to override the Senate Parliamentarian—the official tasked with determining whether legislation adheres to the chamber's rules—and deem Medicare for All eligible for reconciliation.
"I would remind everyone that the budget reconciliation process, with 51 votes, has been used time and time again to pass major pieces of legislation and that under our Constitution and the rules of the Senate, it is the vice president who determines what is and is not permissible under budget reconciliation," Sanders said. "I can tell you that a vice president in a Bernie Sanders administration will determine that Medicare for All can pass through the Senate under reconciliation and is not in violation of the rules."
Responding to criticism that the Vermont senator would be "taking a page" from Republicans' playbook by attempting to use reconciliation and overrule the Senate Parliamentarian, Sanders' staff director Warren Gunnels responded:
No, @BernieSanders is taking a page from LBJ's War on Poverty and Great Society. His vice president "disregarded the parliamentarian’s guidance with some regularity." When it comes to passing a progressive agenda through the Senate, Bernie's vice president will show up. pic.twitter.com/5qyXj4MV2v
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— Warren Gunnels (@GunnelsWarren) April 11, 2019
According to CNN's Ryan Nobles, Sanders also said he would be willing to scrap the legislative filibuster if it was the only way to pass Medicare for All.
To clarify- Sanders would prefer to pass his legislation through filibuster reform or budget reconciliation. But we specifically asked- if the only way to pass his key policy goals meant invoking the nuclear option would he push for that and the answer is YES. https://t.co/hK7CavtEWY
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) April 10, 2019
Sanders, who introduced his single-payer plan on Wednesday with 14 Senate co-sponsors, emphasized in his statement that any talk of ditching Senate rules is premature as long as Medicare for All doesn't have 51 votes.
"In terms of Medicare for All, before we even get to the issue of the filibuster, we need 51 senators who are prepared to do what the polls show that rank and file Democrats want—and that is a Medicare for All, single-payer system," said the Vermont senator. "Currently, only 15 out of 47 Democrats have publicly stated their support for that legislation, and that has got to change."
"In my view, Democratic elected officials and candidates should do what grassroots Democrats want them to do," Sanders added. "Once we have, and I believe it will be sooner rather than later, a Democratic majority who are prepared to vote for Medicare for All in the House and Senate, we will pass it."