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DNC resolution pressures Sanders to join Democrats

DNC resolution pressures Sanders to join Democrats
© Greg Nash

A new resolution before the Democratic National Committee (DNC) this week picks at old wounds from the party’s bruising 2016 presidential primary.

The resolution calls for Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBooker holds 'Get Out the Vote' event in South Carolina as presidential speculation builds The Democratic Donald Trump is coming Biden: Trump administration 'coddles autocrats and dictators' MORE (I-Vt.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel People have forgotten 'facade' of independent politicians, says GOP strategist Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight MORE (I-Maine) to run as Democrats when they run for reelection in 2018 — when they’re both expected to win — and “beyond.”

The measure is clearly aimed at Sanders, who is on the shortlist of potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. And it exemplifies the continual unease among some Democrats about turning their party over to a candidate who won’t fully embrace them, as well as the frustration of Sanders supporters who see the repeated attacks as only meant to needlessly cut the senator down.

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The resolution, sponsored by California DNC member Bob Mulholland, lauds both senators’ contributions “to key Democratic causes” but argues that “a strong and unified Democratic party … puts us in the best position to win elections.” It goes on to call on the party to “urge” Sanders and King to “register or affiliate with the Democratic Party in 2017, 2018 and beyond.”

“If Sanders plans on being part of the Democratic Party family in 2020, let’s ask him to be part of our family in 2018,” Mulholland told The Hill. “I can’t believe our team, the DNC, is not in favor of people running as Democrats.”

Mulholland went on to suggest that he believes that, since Sanders has sought to have a large say in the direction of the Democratic Party, he should fully commit to the party.

“Sanders runs around the country screaming at people to adopt his policies. The least the DNC can do is urge him to run as a Democrat in 2018 in the era of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE,” he added.

Mulholland, who supported Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWatchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US Republicans cancel airtime in swing Vegas district The Democratic Donald Trump is coming MORE during the 2016 presidential primary, said he has several California DNC members as cosponsors. The resolution will be discussed Friday morning during the DNC’s Resolution Committee meeting at the national party’s fall meeting in Las Vegas.

It’s unclear whether the resolution will pass out of that committee. It would need a simple majority to clear that hurdle before facing another vote during the general session on Saturday.

Democrats have long pressured Sanders to officially join the party now that he has become one of its most powerful figures.

Democratic senators named Sanders to a leadership position eight days after the 2016 elections, and he’s continued to build his clout within the caucus as Democratic colleagues sign on to his single-payer health-care plan.

While he regularly caucuses with the party, Sanders has declined to declare himself a Democrat, arguing that the party needs to open its doors to independents and the grass roots.

During a joint interview with DNC Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE in April, when Sanders accompanied Perez on a unity tour shortly after Perez was elected party leader, the senator told MSNBC that he does not consider himself a
Democrat.

The issue continues to pop up every few months and reopen the debate — with the latest flap coming from Clinton’s campaign memoir, “What Happened.” Clinton argued in the book that “[Sanders] didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.”

The controversy continues to hold resonance with some frustrated Democrats who see Sanders as a top 2020 primary contender. Sanders hasn’t ruled out another presidential bid, stoking speculation with a travel schedule that includes trips to early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

But Sanders’s allies see the debate as a waste of time that only interests party elites. Jonathan Tasini, a Sanders surrogate during the presidential primaries, pointed to polls showing that Sanders is the most popular politician in the country as proof that Americans don’t care about his party affiliation.

“Do you publish obscenities?” Tasini asked The Hill when asked about the premise of the resolution.

“This has no resonance or consequence to Democratic voters. Not the least of which, if you look at how many people identify as independent voters, the kinds of people Democrats want to pull over, they don’t care about the label,” he said.

He pointed to the growing interest among Democrats in Sanders’s single-payer health-care bill. A similar bill Sanders dropped in 2013 had no cosponsors.

“If there was such a deep wound, why did 16 Democratic senators stand with Bernie Sanders when he unveiled his ‘Medicare for all’ bill?” Tasini said.

“He’s actually healing the party and coalescing them around substantive policy,” he added.

The resolution will be discussed one day after a meeting of the DNC’s unity commission, a coalition of people named by Clinton, Sanders and Perez to help the party move on from a divisive primary election and come together.

Nomiki Konst, a Sanders-named delegate on the unity commission, swatted away the resolution as a distraction from the commission’s work.

“The DNC is at its weakest point since 1929,” she said.

“Here’s another example where one of its members is being used as a prop to distract from the crucial issues like, where did they spend all the money that they lost the [about 1,000] state legislature seats and the presidency [with], leaving state parties with empty bank accounts?” Konst continued.

Sanders himself hasn’t addressed the resolution, which would have no binding impact on his role in the party, although the latest nudge isn’t likely to change his mind. King, when asked about the resolution, said he’s going to remain as an independent when he runs for reelection next year in Maine.

“I’ve been an independent since the early nineties. I was a governor as an independent. That’s who I am,” King told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in a Tuesday night interview.

“I caucus with the Democrats. You have to choose one caucus or the other. It’s worked out. I more often vote with the Democrats, but not always. I like to call them as I see ‘em and that’s where I’m gonna stay.”