Joe Biden Embraces Bernie Sanders Amid Discontent Over Gaza

The president and the senator united over their push to lower prescription drug costs at an event at the White House on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden, facing increasing pressure from the left wing of his party to get tougher on Israel and change its military campaign in Gaza, spent Wednesday rhetorically and literally embracing one of his fiercest critics on the issue, hosting an event at the White House where he and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders celebrated a recent victory over the prescription drug lobby.

Sanders, an independent who ran against Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, has repeatedly urged the president to stop sending military aid to Israel unless it ceases its bombing campaign and allows more humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The event focused on Biden’s actions to lower the costs of prescription drugs, including the cost of asthma inhalers — a major legislative victory Democrats are hoping voters will remember in November’s elections. Lowering health care costs is also a huge priority for Sanders, who has prioritized it during his tenure as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

“Finally, we beat Big Pharma,” Biden said on Wednesday, before heaping praise on Sanders. “I wouldn’t have done it without Bernie. Bernie is the one who has been leading the way for decades which is why we’re here today.

“Bernie and I have been doing this work for a long time. I know we don’t look it. But we have,” he quipped about his fellow octogenarian.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a vocal critic of the Biden's administration's approach on Israel, joined President Biden for a health care event at the White House on Wednesday. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a vocal critic of the Biden's administration's approach on Israel, joined President Biden for a health care event at the White House on Wednesday. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
JIM WATSON via Getty Images

Sanders, in turn, thanked Biden and said he was looking forward to continue working with him on drug pricing in the future.

“These companies, as well as many others in the pharmaceutical industry, are beginning to catch on to the fact that the American people are tired of being ripped off and paying astronomical prices for the prescription drugs they need to stay alive or ease their suffering,” Sanders said.

The event was natural terrain for collaboration between Biden and Sanders, according to Ari Rabin-Havt, a former senior advisor to Sanders. Many observers remember Sanders and Biden’s fierce disagreement over universal health care during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

Prescription drug pricing, however, was “one area where Bernie had agreement was this particular area of health policy — that American consumers are getting taken advantage of,” Rabin-Havt said.

“Having someone like Bernie there who is unafraid and uncowed is to their advantage,” he added.

Unlike some of his peers on the progressive left, Sanders has never wavered in his support for Biden’s reelection. Sanders endorsed Biden in April 2023, before Biden even made his second run official.

He has even praised Biden’s legislative record, arguing that bills like the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act have furthered goals Sanders himself sought to accomplish during his own two presidential runs. “I think he is a much more progressive president than he was a United States senator,” Sanders said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” in Feb. 2023.

Lately, Sanders’ campaign pitch has been more focused on the threats posed by a second Trump term. In a March video on X, Sanders appealed directly to progressives dissatisfied with Biden’s refusal to apply more pressure on Israel.

“[There] are a number of areas where the administration’s response has been inadequate or, in the case of Gaza, dead wrong,” Sanders said. “But while we may have our disagreements with Biden, it’s important to take a minute to think about what a Trump presidency would mean to our country and, in fact, the world.”

A second Trump term would be “a horrific disaster for our country,” he said in a MSNBC interview Tuesday. Still, he warned that Biden’s policy toward Israel would hurt him politically, particularly with younger voters and voters of color.

“The polling is very clear ― the Democratic base wants to stop funding for Netanyahu’s war machine,” Sanders said.

It’s not clear if Sanders brought up Gaza with Biden at the White House on Wednesday. A request for information with Sanders’ office was not immediately returned.

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