Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years via Legislative Side Doors

By:  Jennifer Steinhauer

As Democrats cobbled together a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration law three years ago, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York was clear about one thing: His party could not suffer a single defection.

But one naysayer remained — Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who had opposed a similar effort in 2007 and once again did not like provisions in the new bill that he thought would displace American workers. And he had a price, a $1.5 billion youth jobs program.

Through wheeling and dealing, shaming and cajoling, Mr. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, got his wish, and his favored provision was grafted incongruously onto a tough-minded Republican border security amendment and paid for by higher visa fees for some foreign travelers.

The immigration bill, opposed by House Republicans, never became law. But the jobs program amendment was classic Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist who has spent a quarter-century in Congress working the side door, tacking on amendments to larger bills that scratch his particular policy itches, generally focused on working-class Americans, income inequality and the environment.

Mr. Sanders is not unlike Tea Party Republicans in his tactics, except his are a decaf version. While he is unlikely to turn against his party on important votes, he is most proud of the things he has tried, unsuccessfully, to block over the years. And he boasts about them constantly on the campaign trail: the Iraq war, the Wall Street bailout and the Patriot Act after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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