WASHINGTON, D.C. — Presidential hopefuls John Delaney and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders met with the House of Representatives’ largest caucus Tuesday afternoon, marking the first sit-down talks intended to clinch an endorsement from a group that represents the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, sources confirm to Yahoo News.
Delaney met with 15 members of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of 103 lawmakers led by Rep. Derek Kilmer of Washington on Tuesday afternoon and discussed several center-of-the-aisle issues, including trade, health care, climate change and infrastructure.
Delaney, a moderate Democrat and former representative from Maryland, has been polling near the bottom of the Democratic contenders for president. Meanwhile Sanders, whose progressive views are credited with shifting the Democratic debate to the left, has been consistently among the top three candidates in polling.
“We enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the New Dems and discuss our strategy to win the center and build the big-tent coalition that is needed to beat Donald Trump and hold the House in the general election,” said Michael Hopkins, national press secretary for Delaney. “While our conversations were off-the-record, what I can say is that congressman Delaney is proud of his time spent as a member of the New Dems and looks forward to working with them in the future.”
Sanders’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
A few Democrats running for president — Delaney, Beto O’Rourke and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — belonged to the New Democrat Coalition when they served as House members. Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton is currently a member.
These meetings come after the coalition put out a request in June to each campaign, inviting candidates and their staff to meet members and swap ideas. Sanders, whose base and platforms often bend left of center, has often bemoaned “middle ground” thinking within his own party.
“We have got to make it clear that when the future of the planet is at stake, there is no middle ground,” Sanders said during the California Democratic convention in June. “When it comes to health care, there is no middle ground. We cannot go back to the old ways; we have to go forward with a new and progressive agenda.”
Delaney has not been shy to target Sanders’s Medicare for All initiative, a policy supported by a number of Democratic presidential challengers. On a recent NBC appearance, Delaney claimed Sanders and those with similar policies “hijacked” Medicare.
“Look at so many of the candidates, Sen. Warren, so many of these people have outsourced their health care plan to Bernie Sanders, right? Because this is Bernie Sanders’s plan,” said Delaney, adding that some of his rivals have “hijacked the good name of Medicare and applied it to a law that will cause upheaval in our health care system.”
Still, in a recent interview with Roll Call, Kilmer said he did not find the policy differences to be major party fault lines.
“I don’t think there’s angst about having a debate and discussion around ideas,” said Kilmer.
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