POLITICS
01/23/2015 04:21 pm ET Updated Jan 24, 2015

Bernie Sanders Got Republicans To Make His Argument For Universal Health Care

WASHINGTON -- In their ongoing efforts to roll back or hamstring Obamacare, Republicans probably weren't hoping that the first Senate hearing on the matter this year would feature a self-described "democratic socialist" getting GOP witnesses to back a key argument for universal health care.

Thursday's hearing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions was devoted to the question of moving the full-time work standard under the Affordable Care Act from 30 hours a week to 40 hours, and whether more workers would be hurt by the higher or lower limit.

But to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has long supported the creation of a universal health care system, battling over that particular point began to seem absurd, and he opened his remarks by noting that in every other developed country, such a debate would make no sense at all.

"The argument of whether you provide health insurance to people who work 30 hours a week or whether they work 40 hours a week -- whoa," Sanders said. "In every major country on Earth, health care is a right of all people."

With that as his premise, he then asked three of the hearing's witnesses -- two business owners and a school superintendent -- whether their lives and daily endeavors would be improved if government lifted from them the burden of providing health care to their workers.

The panel's only Democratic witness, Joe Fugere, founder of the Seattle-area Tutta Bella Pizzeria chain, readily answered that it would.

And despite all the GOP's cries and criticisms of "socialized medicine" when the Affordable Care Act was making its way through Congress years ago, the two Republican panelists agreed nearly as readily.

"A question like that -- sure," said Betsy Webb, who runs the Bangor School Department in Maine. "But what is the reality?"

"The reality is that maybe it should not have to be the responsibility of the Bangor school district to provide health care, that maybe it should be a right of all of our people, whether they work at McDonald's in Bangor, whether they work for the school district, to have health care," said Sanders, before taking up the question with the next witness, Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which runs the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's chains.

"If what you're saying, Senator, is that if we had a bill that was debated, that was vetted through congressional committees, and we looked at the health care system and really tried to come up with a more rational solution, I would say you're absolutely right," Puzder said.

He allowed that he and Sanders "might not agree on the ultimate solution," but when Sanders pressed Puzder on whether he would rather not have to worry about providing health care and instead focus on his products, the CEO was emphatic.

"From your lips to God's ear," he said.

Watch Sanders' remarks above.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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