Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, on Wednesday became the new sponsor of the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, the single-payer health care bill in the House.
Ellison replaced former Democratic Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), who resigned last year amid allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him, as the bill's sponsor, receiving unanimous consent to take over H.R. 676, the Washington Post reported.
When garnering support from fellow Democrats to become the bill's sponsor, Ellison said that he is willing and able to campaign for the legislation outside of his DNC role.
"Until the platform committee of the DNC adopts this, it’s really more of a congressional effort and a community effort, so we respect the difference," Ellison said. "We're going to be working on this thing as a team. One of the consistent applause lines we're all hearing is: We need Medicare for all. There's a lot of folks who feel that it's time for us to organize around that."
The Minnesota congressman argued that Democrats who "run to the center" are not meeting the needs of the average voter.
Ellison has taken over as the bill's sponsor at a time when he is under scrutiny for his association with, and former support of, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Ellison defended Farrakhan, who is known for making outlandish racist anti-Semitic comments, during the late 1980s through the 1990s, before distancing himself from the controversial imam when he first ran for Congress in 2006.
In 2013, however, Ellison attended a private dinner with Farrakhan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Ellison defended his association with Farrakhan, saying, "I am telling you, no one cares."
"I've been all over Minnesota, all over Alabama, all over Missouri, all over Pennsylvania and Connecticut, and nobody ever asked me about this," Ellison told the Post. "People ask me about wages, about pay, about health care, about guns, about immigration. They ask me all kinds of challenging questions. But for some reason, some folks in the Fourth Estate think that this Farrakhan thing needs to be inquired about instead."