Senate Democrats see Warren, Sanders proposals as unfeasible

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter knocks Zuckerberg for invoking her father while defending Facebook Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems advance drug pricing bill | Cases of vaping-related lung illnesses near 1,500 | Juul suspends sales of most e-cigarette flavors MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren raised more money from Big Tech employees than other 2020 Democrats: Report Krystal Ball reacts to Ocasio-Cortez endorsing Sanders: 'Class power over girl power' Saagar Enjeti praises Yang for bringing threat of automation to forefront at Ohio debate MORE (I-Vt.) at Tuesday’s prime-time presidential debate defended “Medicare for All,” free college tuition and other progressive proposals they say they’d push forward if elected president.

The debate over such issues has defined the presidential race, which has at times looked like a fight over the future of the Democratic Party between liberals calling for new ideas and centrists worried the bold approach could turn off voters and lead to four more years for President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE.

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In the Senate, Democrats say Warren's and Sanders's most ambitious proposals divide many of their colleagues and face little chance of being enacted, even with a Democratic president.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Senate Dems lose forced vote against EPA power plant rule Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever MORE (D-W.Va.), the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, said ambitious proposals such as Medicare for All and free college are little more than campaign pipe dreams.

“There’s the progressive left, which is not where I am at all and not where West Virginia is, my state, and not where I think most of rural America is,” said Manchin, who argued the proposals likely don’t have majority support in the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Manchin said the Democratic lawmakers who support Medicare for All are a “vocal minority” who appear stronger than they are because “the press plays it up so big.”

Other Democrats on Tuesday were less cutting, but said the costs of some of the progressive proposals getting attention on the campaign trail would make them prohibitive.

“How do you pay for it is the question,” said Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterBennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever Red-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control MORE (D-Mont.).

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers set to host fundraisers focused on Nats' World Series trip The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington mourns loss of Elijah Cummings Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings MORE (D-Va.), who is up for reelection next year in a presidential battleground state, warned that big new programs could leave future generations saddled with trillions of dollars of additional debt.

“At the end of the day, there are some people offering — I’m not saying any candidates — that debt and deficits don’t matter anymore. That gives me a great deal of pause,” he said.

“There’s nothing progressive about leaving our kids with a balance sheet that wouldn’t allow America to make great investments,” he added.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenGraham, Van Hollen introduce Turkey sanctions bill Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing US envoy insists Syria pullout doesn't affect Iran strategy MORE (D-N.H.) who sponsored Medicare for All in the 115th Congress, which spanned 2017 and 2018, says she now supports a more pragmatic approach to helping people afford health care services.

“I frankly don’t support Medicare for All, for example, because I think there are better, faster ways to improve coverage for people,” said Shaheen, who also faces reelection next year.

She also criticized proposals to offer health care benefits to immigrants who came to the United States illegally.

“I don’t support providing benefits to people who come in here illegally because I’ve got my own constituents and there are people here who are citizens who need benefits, and I’m going to start with them,” she added.

Centrists in the Senate have candidates in the presidential race reflecting their positions, including Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems advance drug pricing bill | Cases of vaping-related lung illnesses near 1,500 | Juul suspends sales of most e-cigarette flavors 2020 Democrats tell LGBTQ teens they're not alone on Spirit Day 'We lost a giant': 2020 Democrats mourn the death of Elijah Cummings MORE (D-Minn.) and former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump seeks distance from Syria crisis Gardner dodges questions about Trump's call for Biden probe 2020 Presidential Candidates MORE (D), who have criticized some liberal proposals as unrealistic.

Those two candidates have lagged in the polls, but the Democratic front-runner remains former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump accuses Biden of 'quid pro quo' hours after Mulvaney remarks Testimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense MORE, who does not back Medicare for All.

Biden has faced criticism from liberals who see him as too centrist to win the nomination but support from other Democrats who worry a candidate such as Warren and Sanders might be defeated by Trump. Sanders and Warren have both been winning double-digit support behind Biden, along with Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCampaign aide replaces Trump with Kamala Harris in viral 'meltdown' photo Warren raised more money from Big Tech employees than other 2020 Democrats: Report Poll: Biden, Warren support remains unchanged after Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.).

Liberals like Warren have argued the party could lose the election by being too cautious. A key part of her appeal to supporters is also her argument, as she declared Tuesday night, that “we’re not going to solve the urgent problems that we face with small ideas and spinelessness.”

She called on Democrats to be the party of “big structural change.”

There is definite support for some of the liberal proposals in the Senate and in the House, where battles between centrists and progressives have been a feature of the new majority.

Sanders's Medicare for All bill has 14 co-sponsors among Senate Democrats, though that is a small minority in the 47-member caucus.

In the House, it has 117 co-sponsors, almost half of the House Democratic caucus.

Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowPoll shows Sen. Gary Peters with slim lead over GOP rival in Michigan Republican challenger to Gary Peters in Michigan raises over million USDA nixes release of multiple reports over researcher exodus MORE (D-Mich.), the chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said she prefers lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 50 instead of switching to a universal health care system.

She also defended the position of Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanThird-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the October showdown MORE (D-Ohio), who clashed with Sanders Tuesday over forcing union members to give up their negotiated employer-provided health care plans for a national plan.

“I personally support having Medicare as an option so people can choose, so that if someone has a good union contract health care plan that they want to keep, like a lot of people do in Michigan, that they can do that,” she said.

Stabenow is the co-sponsor of a bill to set up a so-called public option, through which people could buy into a government-provided health care plan — a proposal that moderate Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockBullock says Trump should be removed from office Biden, Warren tied for lead in Iowa poll The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy MORE (D) endorsed at Tuesday’s debate.

Another Sanders bill, the College for All Act, has doesn’t have any Senate co-sponsors, although a House companion measure has 16 House co-sponsors.

Warren has a separate $1.25 trillion plan to pay for up to $50,000 in student debt for people in households earning less than $100,000.

On the subject of free college, Stabenow said there is a “difference” of opinion within the Democratic caucus.

“Do you offer that for people who are wealthy? I would say no,” she said.

“One of the outrages is the cost of college,” Stabenow added, but argued there are other ways to lower college costs.

Democrats on Capitol Hill up for reelection in purple states say the pursuit of more centrist principles isn’t about spinelessness or small mindedness, it’s simply a difference of opinion about what would work best.

“Those people who said these ideas are not bold enough, they’re not big enough — well, there’s a legitimate difference of opinion about what’s the best way forward,” said Shaheen. “I want to reflect the people who I represent because I think that’s the best way forward.”

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), another centrist who is up for reelection next year, said the media’s portrayal of the presidential debates has given too much attention to Warren and Sanders.

“All you folks in the media who said the only voices were from the left were wrong. We’ve been saying that over and over,” he said.

“No one should believe the left is dominating the Democratic Party,” he said.

Jones said “overall, the rank-and-file Democrats” are not in favor of Medicare for All “and will vote that way.”