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Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a 2020 presidential candidate, speaks during a news conference with fellow Democrats at the U.S. Capitol October 25, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a 2020 presidential candidate, speaks during a news conference with fellow Democrats at the U.S. Capitol October 25, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Kamala Harris, Who Just Clarified Her Rejection of Real Medicare for All, to Snub Climate Forum in Favor of Big Donors

"We need a leader who prioritizes the future of humanity over rubbing elbows with millionaires and billionaires."

Eoin Higgins

Update: New York Times reporter Astead Herndon reported Tuesday afternoon that Harris will, in fact, attend the CNN climate forum, a reversal of her scheduling conflict declination. 

In the space of 24 hours, Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat running for the party's 2020 presidential nomination, made clear that when forced to choose between the interests of the donor class or progressives, she'd choose the former. 

On Sunday night, as Bloomberg reported, Harris attended a big money fundraiser in the Hamptons, telling the superrich attendees "I believe in capitalism" and that she wasn't "comfortable" with a comprehensive Medicare for All plan.

Bloomberg's reporters set the scene:

Teslas and Maseratis lined the street as Kamala Harris greeted guests sipping drinks from plastic cups with her name on them and eating cinnamon sugar donuts from Dreesen's at a fund-raiser hosted by movie executive Jamie Patricof and his wife Kelly as the summer of Democratic fund-raisers rolled on in East Hampton.

The next day, the Harris campaign told CNN Harris would not attend the network's September 4 climate forum, citing previous commitments—big dollar California fundraisers. 

Harris was the only candidate of the nine who reached the threshold to participate in the forum to decline the invitation, a decision that was sharply criticized by climate advocates.

"We need a leader who prioritizes the future of humanity over rubbing elbows with millionaires and billionaires," environmental group Sunrise Movement said in a disapproving tweet reacting to the news about the forum.

The climate controversy came on the heels of sustained criticism Monday over Harris' healthcare comments.

Harris' position on the issue has changed since she first cosponsored a Medicare for All bill with her 2020 rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) two years ago and again this April. 

According to comments provided to The Daily Beast by the Harris campaign, the senator told donors that Sanders' bill was one of a number of "good ideas" that she had signed onto over the years. 

"I support Medicare for All," Harris told donors. "But as you may have noticed, over the course of the many months, I've not been comfortable with Bernie's plan, the Medicare for All plan."

As a chorus of criticism over the remarks grew louder Monday, Harris press secretary Ian Sams attempted to spin the decision to change course as a pivot from his candidate. 

"She has her own healthcare plan," said Sams. "So yeah, not a secret she isn't running on Bernie's plan anymore."

As Jacobin writer Luke Savage noted,  Sams' comments were a "remarkable use of the word 'anymore.'"

Sams later told The Daily Beast that Harris "was hearing from lots of voters real concerns, specifically about proactively abolishing private insurance, the four year transition, middle class tax hikes, and so she came up with her own plan to adjust for those that, frankly, is better than his."

Harris, whose polling is mired in the high single digits, briefly reached 15 percent in early July after a strong debate performance. That temporary bump has receded back to around eight and seven percent. 


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