Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Donald Trump have finally found something they can agree on: Australia's universal health care system. Sen. Sanders applauded Trump for praising Australia's health care system while also using the president's own words to argue against his Republican-backed health care bill.
While celebrating the Republican-backed American Health Care Act's narrow passage through the House Thursday, during a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, Trump praised Australia's universal health care system. "It's going to be fantastic health care," Trump said of the GOP's controversial AHCA. "We have a failing health care — I shouldn't say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia because you have better health care than we do."
Trump's comments took many by surprise, however: in repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, the ACHA seeks to slash government funding for Medicaid and move the country away from universal health care. In Australia, a publicly funded government-run universal health care system has existed alongside a private health care system since the 1980s.
Upon hearing Trump's praise for Australia's universal health care system, Sanders laughed out loud during an interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC. "The president has just said it!" Sanders said. "That's great. Let's take a look at the Australian healthcare system, and maybe ... the Canadian healthcare system, or systems throughout Europe."
"Thank you, Mr. President," Sanders continued. "Let us move to a Medicare for all system that does what every other major country on earth does — guarantee health care to all people at a fraction of the cost per capita that we spend. Thank you, Mr. President, we'll quote you on the floor of the Senate."
Sanders also used the president's comment in arguments against the Republican-backed AHCA in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. "In Australia and every other major country on Earth they guarantee health care to all people," Sanders said. "They don't throw 24 million people off health insurance. So maybe when we get to the Senate we should start off with looking at the Australian health care system."
The Vermont senator and former Democratic presidential hopeful continued his argument on Twitter on Saturday with a video explaining how Australia's universal health care system works. "Yes, Mr. Trump, the Australian health care system is a lot better than ours and infinitely better than the disastrous bill you supported," the senator wrote in a separate tweet posted along with an illustration showing a majority of countries offer universal health care.
While it's a bit bizarre to see Trump and Sanders actually agree on something, it's likely to be short-lived. The White House attempted to walk back the president's comment Friday, claiming Trump had been merely looking to compliment the Australian prime minister during a bit of small talk. "He was simply being complimentary of the prime minster," Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee told reporters during a press briefing Friday.
Whether or not the president was confused about the aims of the AHCA or merely throwing Prime Minister Turnbull an insincere compliment, Sanders has remained adamant the bill will not pass the Senate.
"This Republican health care bill needs to either be flushed down the toilet or thrown in the garbage," he tweeted Friday. "It's not getting through the Senate."