WASHINGTON, D.C. >> Bernie Sanders offered some of his warmest praise yet for presidential campaign rival Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, applauding her newly released higher education proposal, which includes key ideas he pushed during the primaries.

Sanders hasn't conceded the race to Clinton, but she is the presumptive Democratic nominee based on delegate counts.

"I want to take this opportunity to applaud Secretary Clinton for the very bold initiative she has just brought forth today for the financing of higher education," Sanders said. "This proposal combines some of the strongest ideas she fought for during the campaign with some of the principles that I fought for. The final product is a result of the work of both campaigns."

One of Sanders' centerpiece proposals on the trail was making tuition free for all Americans at public colleges and universities. Sanders' $75 billion-a-year plan would have been paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculations.

Clinton's new plan, called The New College Compact, would offer free tuition at in-state four-year public colleges and universities, as well as community colleges, to families making up to $125,000 a year by 2021.

Clinton's proposal is estimated to cover 83 percent of American households. Sanders' proposal did not have any income-related qualifications.

Her proposal would be paid for by cutting tax subsidies for upper-income taxpayers.


Clinton, like Sanders, is also calling for lower interest rates on student loans and increased Pell Grant funding. She also pledged $25 billion to help lower student costs at historically black colleges and universities.

The Clinton plan could be seen as a peace offering to Sanders after harsh primary-season rhetoric about the Vermont senator's college ideas, which the former secretary of state characterized as pie in the sky.

"My late father said, 'Anytime someone tells you it's free, read the fine print,'" Clinton said shortly before the California primary in early June.

Sanders was effusive in his praise of Clinton's proposal, saying it would "have a profound impact on the future of our country."

The warm words from Sanders come amid frustration from party leaders who continue to push the Vermont senator hard to formally endorse Clinton before the Democratic National Convention, scheduled to take place in Philadelphia in late July.

In a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday, lawmakers booed Sanders after he made comments dismissing the importance of the 2016 general election, according to Politico.

"The goal isn't to win elections," Sanders said right before the booing, Politico reported. "The goal is to transform America."

Although Sanders has promised to vote for Clinton in the general election, he has not endorsed her or campaigned on her behalf.

His strategy has instead been to use his remaining leverage to push policy, both on the Clinton campaign and in the drafting process of the party's platform.

His satisfaction with Clinton's college policy comes after successfully inserting progressive policies in early platform drafts, including expanding Social Security and breaking up big banks.

Last month, Sanders told supporters in an email that "we are going to take our political revolution into the halls of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia where we will fight to place a $15 minimum wage, opposition to (the Trans-Pacific Partnership), and a ban on fracking directly into the Democratic platform."

Politico reported late Wednesday that Clinton's college plan peace offering may result in a formal endorsement before the convention, which kicks off July 25.

"Sources from both sides said the talks have been more focused on getting Sanders and his wife, Jane, acclimated to the idea that his revolution came up short — and it's time for him to play a supporting role in the fight against Trump," Politico's Annie Karni reported.

Jasper Craven is VTDigger's political reporter. He can be contacted at jcraven@vtdigger.org. Follow him on Twitter @jasper_craven.