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After Sanders drops out, Biden signals support for lowering Medicare age and forgiving some student debt

In this March 12, 2020, file photo Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus in Wilmington, Del.
In this March 12, 2020, file photo Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the coronavirus in Wilmington, Del.Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Joe Biden took some of his first steps to bring together the Democratic Party now that he is its presumptive presidential nominee, announcing proposals Thursday to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 and to expand student debt-forgiveness programs for low-income and middle-class families.

The proposals, which Biden announced in a Medium post, are part of an effort to appeal to the progressive wing of the party led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who dropped out of the race Wednesday.

“Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas,” Biden wrote.

Top Sanders aides had been intensifying talks with the Biden campaign in recent days to find common ground on policies. The Biden team’s willingness to move in Sanders’ direction was a key factor in the senator’s decision to exit the race.

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The lowering of the Medicare age from 65 to 60 is a small step compared with the universal, government-run “Medicare for All” plan that Sanders has championed, but a symbolically significant one given that Sanders has made expanding access to health care a centerpiece of his agenda.

Biden’s student debt-forgiveness plan — which would eliminate student debt for low-income and middle-class people who attended public colleges and universities, historically black colleges and universities, and other institutions that serve students of color — also does not go as far as Sanders’ plan to eliminate all student debt.

Sanders and Biden have sounded similar notes of alignment in their public appearances in the past day. Speaking to Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show,” Sanders acknowledged Wednesday night that “Joe, he’s not going to adopt my platform. I got that.”

“But if he can move in that direction,” Sanders added, “I think people will say this is a guy that we should support and will support.”

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Biden, speaking to donors at a Wednesday fundraiser via videoconference, called Sanders “a powerful voice for a fairer and more just America” and previewed the incorporation of some elements of the Sanders agenda into his own.

“I’m committed to seeing that these good ideas, wherever I can find them on every issue, are brought into the campaign,” he said.