Washington (CNN) – Noted Senate liberal Bernie Sanders stood in support of Obamacare Tuesday even while saying the bill doesn’t go nearly far enough.
Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, reiterated his support of a universal single-payer Medicare for all, inspired by health care programs in Europe. On CNN’s Crossfire, he called the Affordable Care Act that Congress passed in 2010 a “good Republican program,” referring to the Massachusetts program introduced by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney that served as the blueprint for what has come to be known as Obamacare.
The U.S. is the “only nation in the entire industrial world that doesn’t guarantee health care as a right,” Sanders said.
Opposing Sanders was Sen. Lindsey Graham, a GOP leader who has said Obamacare “sucks,” while still opposing the plan to tie defunding the health care law with a continuing resolution to fund the rest of the government.
“I can’t imagine filibustering a bill I’m actually for,” Graham said of efforts to prevent the Senate from moving forward to vote by GOP anti-Obamacare stalwart Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah. Cruz has argued that allowing a vote means accepting defeat, with a likely party-line vote by which Democrats will pass a continuing resolution that also funds Obamacare.
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Tuesday, Graham, of South Carolina, continually alluded to President Barack Obama’s signature legislation as socialized medicine, criticizing universal systems championed by Sanders like the one in Canada.
“Competition is a good thing,” Graham said of government guarantees of universal health care, which he argued lead to some services lacking. He said thousands of Canadians cross the border into the United States to get health care services not available to them at home.
Sanders responded that during the 1990s, “I took Vermonters over the Canadian border” to get medicine that was far cheaper than in the United States.
Sanders cautioned that “certainly the Canadian system is not perfect.” But he noted that the system is still widely popular.
In response, Graham said that “the European model is not going to go well here.”
While opposed to the bill overall, Graham said there were parts of Obamacare he would adopt, namely allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plan and the prohibition against denying people insurance because of preexisting conditions. Graham said he has a problem, though, with “the structure of the bill,” which is “so expensive to comply with.”
Cost remained one of Graham’s key criticisms, as he responded to the idea of universal Medicare by saying that Medicare and Medicaid will one day cost more in taxes than the U.S. government takes in.
Graham argued that the state health care exchanges going live next month are not the end of the debate over Obamacare but just the beginning, a key issue that Republicans can hammer home during the 2014 midterm elections.
“I’m trying to get votes on a bill that I think can be dramatically changed if people on the Republican and Democratic side had an opportunity to actually talk about it and vote on parts that we don’t like,” Graham said.
“The best thing the Republican Party can do is have a debate on Obamacare throughout 2014. It is now Hillary-care,” he said.