“College For All” Bill Introduced
Symbolic, but Symbolic Could be What Democrats Need...
On Monday, Bernie Sanders and Congressional Dems unveiled a bill that would make 4-year colleges and universities, tuition-free. According to the Sanders Office, the bill will offer tuition-free higher education to student’s living in households making less than $125,000 per year. This represents about 80% of the general population. The bill also has not removed standards or quotas needed for entrance in these traditional public universities.
The Bill was co-sponsored by other prominent congressional Democrats including Kamala Harris (D-California), Elizabeth Warren (D- Mass.), Jamie Raskin (D- Maryland), Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), and Michael Blumenthal (D- Connecticut), to name a few. While the bill has substantially more sponsors than when it was first introduced (Bernie Sanders was the only sponsor in 2015) the bill is still unlikely to see a day in Congress since Republicans control what bills receive a debate/hearing or a vote. The entirely Democratic-sponsored bill is likely to be symbolic in nature.
However, symbolic could be just what the Democrats need if they’re able to capitalize on the momentum that is coming from the shortfalls and missteps the current administration.
Senator Sanders (I-Vermont) and Rep. Joe Walsh (D-Illinois) have also recently introduced Medicare for all healthcare bill last week aimed at putting pressure on congressional Republicans after failing to get the votes needed to pass the American Healthcare Act at the end of last month. While this bill is expected to suffer the same fate as the "College For All" bill, there seems to be a theme to the seemingly long-shot policies being introduced by Bernie and congressional Democrats, a “method to the madness” if you will.
Democrats are in a uniquely difficult position. They have lost all levels of government and are unlikely to see any bi-partisan agreement from Republicans on most, if not all, of their efforts to pass legislation. While this doesn’t give them the power to pass any solid legislation, the lack of popular or fresh ideas coming from the Republican party, mixed with the bombastic news cycle being perpetuated by Trump and his administration, has given the Democrats the opportunity to introduce policy just get people talking about it.
Over 60% of Americans believe a single-payer, 'Medicare for all' system is the best way to go about healthcare and more than half believe that education up to a Bachelor’s degree should be paid for by the government. If the Democrats were to use these numbers, along with the visible energy shown at town halls and Trump’s low poll numbers, the Democrats may have a real shot of gaining political leverage in 2018 and 2020. However, Democrats must move the needle on their agenda or ride the momentum Bernie is creating for them, because the Democrats are polling even below Donald Trump at the moment. Nevertheless, the Democrats have an ally in the most popular senator in the country, Bernie Sanders, who has been hovering at a 29+ net approval rating.
And that’s based on a Fox News poll…
But if the Democrats want to capitalize on this opportunity they need to change course now. Many see the election of former Labor Secretary, Tom Perez, to the DNC chair position, as shunning of the Bernie wing of the party, which came out in droves to support Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary. The pick, who is seen by many in the base as part of the Washington establishment, has vowed to fight Trump at every turn, no matter the policy. He also echoes a familiar strategy of improving messaging which former House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, sees as the Democrat's big problem moving forward.
Progressive Caucus members like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have said that becoming the party of the working American and championing policies other than platitudes are the way to go. These new pieces of legislation are just that. If the Democrats go the same direction as they did in 2016, they could repeat the same result in 2020.