U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday said President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party must do everything in their power to defend middle- and low-income people in potential budget negotiations, after the Republicans said they will raise the country’s debt limit only in exchange for cuts to green jobs, food assistance, healthcare, and other social services that millions of Americans depend on.
Sanders spoke to CNN’s “State of the Union” about the debt ceiling days after the GOP introduced the so-called Limit, Save, Grow Act, which would raise the country’s borrowing limit to avoid an unprecedented default on its debt obligations and threaten the U.S. and global economies — but also includes cuts to Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Social Security Administration, and Internal Revenue Service funding meant to prevent tax-dodging by the richest Americans, among other programs.
“What the Republicans are saying in their budget proposal is that, at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when the richest people are becoming much richer, while working-class people are struggling, what they want to do is to cut programs for nutrition, for education, for healthcare,” said the Vermont independent senator.
Sanders noted that the GOP proposed cuts over the next decade to non-military spending, but nothing to reduce the Pentagon budget, which ballooned to $858 billion this year.
“I think we can move toward cutting military spending,” said Sanders. “I’m certainly open to demanding that the largest corporations in this country and the wealthiest people start paying their fair share of taxes.”
He added that he is willing to address “waste” within the federal government and said Democrats should ensure the legislation won’t “go to war against the working class of this country, lower-income people.”
“Don’t tell kids that they can’t afford to go to college or cut back on public education in America,” he said. “We have already too much inequality in America. Let’s not make it worse.”
He continued that the Democrats “can start negotiating tomorrow,” but reiterated the president’s position that raising the arbitrary debt limit to protect against a default is non-negotiable.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) on Saturday repeated Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-New York) statement that the package will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate, and said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) is well aware that the proposal is “a joke” that was only passed out of the Republican-controlled House to drive Biden and the Democrats to the negotiating table.
Economists say lawmakers have until at least early June to hammer out a deal to avoid a debt default.
On CNN, Sanders suggested that fighting for working people and low-income households to keep their healthcare, food assistance, and other essential services could be the first step in ensuring Biden wins a second term “in a landslide” in 2024.
“What I do believe is, the Democrats and the president have got to be stronger on working-class issues,” said Sanders. “They have got to make it clear that we believe in a government that represents all, not just the few, take on the greed of the insurance companies, the drug companies, Wall Street, all the big money interests, and start delivering for working-class people.”
Biden announced he is running for reelection last week, and Sanders endorsed the president’s run soon after.
“Look, it is no great secret — I ran against Biden,” said Sanders on Sunday. “No great secret that he and I have strong differences of opinion. But… if you believe in democracy, you want to see more people vote, not fewer people vote, I think the choice is pretty clear, and that choice is Biden.”