A week after Hillary Clinton claimed the Democratic presidential nomination, she sat down Tuesday with her chief primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in Washington for about two hours to discuss the party platform.
Billed as a key step toward uniting the party, the meeting between the rival candidates began after Clinton had clinched a lopsided victory in the District of Columbia primary Tuesday night, the final contest of the 2016 presidential primary season.
“I simply want to get a sense of what kind of platform she will be supporting,” Sanders had said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, “whether she will be vigorous in standing up for working families in the middle class, moving aggressively in climate change, health care for all, making public colleges and universities tuition-free.”
Sanders and Clinton both left quickly without speaking to the press waiting for them after the meeting at the Capital Hilton.
Earlier in the day, the Vermont independent joined Democrats at their weekly policy lunch, a potential sign that he is winding down his campaign and laying the groundwork for his return to Congress.
“We had a terrific caucus,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada told reporters. “Sen. Sanders took time to talk to us about his experiences. It was really very, very moving.”
Though Sanders is an independent, he caucuses with the Democrats.
A number of his colleagues have predicted Sanders would return to the Senate with more clout due to his energetic presidential run against Clinton. Sanders’ progressive platform has sparked what he has characterized as a political revolution.
This was the second time in as many weeks that Sanders was once again in the Senate. After Clinton earned enough Democratic primary delegates to clinch the nomination last week, Sanders met with President Barack Obama, Reid and New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who is expected to succeed Reid as the Democratic leader next year.
Reid said he believed Sanders accepted the fact that the curtain was coming down on his surprising campaign, which gave Clinton a much harder time than anyone — except Sanders, perhaps — expected.
Sanders has yet to concede the race to Clinton or endorse her, but he has signaled he would work with her to defeat Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.
No Senate Democrats asked him to step down on Tuesday, according to Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin.
Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said he asked for a few minutes of Sanders’ time in the future to discuss the Vermont indepedent campaigning for Democratic senators on the ballot in November.
“I’m going to visit with him later and we’re going to talk about that,” Tester said. “He absolutely will.”
Cardin said Sanders discussed specific issues the Democratic Party needs to address, but declined to go into detail. He said senators also did not ask Sanders many questions.
“He was very warmly received,” Cardin said, noting that Sanders received multiple standing ovations. Multiple instances of applause could be heard at the lunch held just off the Senate floor.
“We missed him!” Cardin said.