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Sunday September 24th, 2017 3:36PM

The Latest: Sanders forces universal health care issue

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on universal health care proposals (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is disrupting the Democratic Party again.

The Vermont independent almost stole the Democratic presidential nomination from Hillary Clinton last year. Now, he's forcing the party to take sides over his proposal to provide government-run health care for all.

Sanders plans to unveil his package Wednesday. It would essentially expand Medicare to cover all Americans.

The idea thrills the Democratic Party's progressive base and has won support from several potential 2020 presidential hopefuls.

But it's also dividing Democrats. Republicans could easily paint it as a huge tax increase that would create government-controlled health care.

Republicans anticipate wielding it as a campaign weapon beginning with next year's midterm elections. That's when many Democrats will defend Senate seats in GOP-leaning states where liberal voters are scarce.

___

11:45 a.m.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is declining to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders' universal health care bill.

The liberal California Democrat says that while she has long supported the idea the bill captures, of everybody getting health coverage, "Right now I'm protecting the Affordable Care Act."

She also disputes the idea that the Vermont independent's bill has become a litmus test for Democrats, forcing them to prove their ideological purity by getting onboard.

Several Senate Democrats who are seen as potential presidential candidates in 2020 have endorsed Sanders' bill, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Sanders' bill would in effect expand Medicare to cover all Americans, not just the elderly.

Pelosi says President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act is actually more comprehensive than Medicare.

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