The Democratic National Committee's Platform Committee on Monday blocked Medicare for All from the party's draft platform despite polls showing overwhelming support for the proposal from voters.
The Platform Committee voted 125-36 to reject the single-payer plan during a virtual meeting. The panel also rejected separate proposals to expand Medicare to children and all people over 55, as well as a proposal calling for the legalization of marijuana.
Polls have shown that the majority of voters, including more than 85% of Democrats, support Medicare for All. Exit polls during the primaries consistently showed that even most voters who backed presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden over Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., want a Medicare for All system. Multiple studies have found that switching to a single-payer system would greatly reduce the amount of money the country spends on health care.
Sanders supporters planned a strong push to include Medicare for All, or other provisions that would expand Medicare, but were unsuccessful.
The platform, which is largely symbolic but serves as an official marker for the party's priorities, will still be voted on by nearly 4,000 Democratic delegates by mail ahead of the virtual Democratic National Convention next month. More than 600 delegates have vowed to oppose any platform that does not include Medicare for all, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Opponents of Medicare for All argued that the platform was heavily based on the draft produced by a joint task force of Biden and Sanders supporters.
"This language that we supported in the Biden-Sanders unity task force was agreed by all members," Chris Jennings, a former aide of Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton who served on the health care task force, told The Wall Street Journal. "It's a part of the strongest health care language in the Democratic Party's history."
But Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, argued that the platform did not go far enough on health and other issues, such as racial disparities and shifting funding from the police to social services.
"Can any of you here truly stand up and say, 'My party is the party of the principles?'" Cullors asked during the meeting. "The Democratic Party of today will be remembered as the party of complicity. The party that refused to sacrifice its own creature comforts and material securities to ensure it walked the walk."
Though Sanders' signature issue was blocked from the draft platform, the Vermont senator reasserted his vow to support Biden during a call with delegates last week.
"There is no more important issue than coming together — all of us — to defeat Donald Trump and to elect Joe Biden as our next president," he said on the call. "Now, I understand we do not agree with Joe Biden on all of the issues. Believe me, I know that. I ran against Joe Biden. But, at this moment, what we need to do is engage in coalition politics with the goal of defeating Trump."
Sanders supporter Judith Whitmer, the chair of the Nevada delegation, is leading an effort to vote down the platform over its exclusion of Medicare for All. However, she acknowledged that the move was unlikely to succeed.
"I will be honest with you: It's not that we expect we are going to be able to stop the DNC from doing what they want to do," she told The Journal. "We want to make a statement about how important this issue is to the majority of national delegates and to the people that we represent."
Other Sanders supporters condemned the panel for voting down the amendment on Twitter.
"I can't even imagine went on in the heads of those 125 [DNC] platform committee members who voted #MedicareForAll down. Today. Now. When the country is in the deathgrip of a global pandemic and people are dying because they can't afford to the upkeep of their sick-care," Winnie Wong, a former Sanders adviser, wrote. "Shameful."
Progressive groups like Progressive Democrats of America and RootsAction.org are circulating a petition urging delegates to vote against the platform.
"The sea change that's underway could swell as a result of this initiative," Norman Solomon, who heads RootsAction.org and serves as a Sanders delegate from California, told Politico. "It's a reasonable hope that historians will look back at the next couple of weeks as a time when hundreds of delegates stepped forward and said, 'This is a red line for a humane society, and we're not going to stop saying so.'"
Solomon said the intraparty fight has nothing to do with Biden's candidacy.
"We're going to fight like hell for Biden," he said. "And there's no contradiction between doing that and supporting this pledge."