White House contenders Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMeghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' Hill: Trump reelection would spur 'one constitutional crisis after another' Trump defends indicted GOP congressman MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats Democrats say they're committed to reducing emissions in Biden plan MORE have agreed to four more debates, beginning with a Thursday night showdown in New Hampshire, the Democratic National Committee confirmed to The Hill.
After Thursday's debate, the campaigns will next square off in Flint, Mich., the city facing a public health crisis due to contaminated water, in March. The DNC adds that there will be two other debates, one in April and one in May, but did not specify the locations.
The Washington Post reports that the April debate will take place in Pennsylvania and the May debate will be in California.
The party’s decision to sanction the debates allows the candidates to appear without triggering a party provision that bars candidates who appear in unsanctioned debates from appearing in future official contests.
MSNBC and the New Hampshire Union Leader announced last week they would sponsor the Thursday debate and hoped it would be sanctioned. But at the time, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz threw cold water on the prospect, saying the party had “no plans” to sanction any debate prior to the New Hampshire primary.
The new agreement triples the number of remaining debates left on the calendar after Sanders posted a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses. While Clinton edged out a victory, she did so by a margin of just 0.2 percent, which translates to two national party delegates more than the Vermont senator will get.
The original schedule called for just two more debates, on Thursday Feb. 11 and one on Sunday March 6.
Sanders has been calling for more debates for months. While the former secretary of State had said she'd be open to additional sanctioned debate, her campaign did not make a push for more events until recently. The campaigns had previously agreed to three of the four debates, but the Clinton camp reportedly wouldn't agree to a debate in New York.
On Tuesday, Sanders's campaign had said that it wouldn't participate unless the Clinton camp agreed to the additional debates, including the one in New York. But the two appear to have met an agreement without that venue.
Wasserman Schultz has faced criticism over the party’s debate schedule from opponents who believed having fewer debates would limit exposure to the candidates on a national stage. Some also noted that the number and timing of those debates, many of which were held on weekends, limited visibility and helped cement Clinton’s front-runner status.
But Wasserman Schultz, who also serves as a Florida lawmaker, has repeatedly pushed back on those accusations.
“Our debates have set viewership records because of our candidates’ ideas, energy, and the strength of their vision to build on the progress we’ve made over the last seven years,” she said in a Wednesday statement.
“We look forward to seeing them continuing to share Democrats' vision for the country.”
—This story was updated at 3:57 p.m.