WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 – In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said it would be unacceptable for Congress to break for the holidays without protecting Dreamers, funding community health centers and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and addressing a number of other issues critical to working families.
“It really would be unconscionable to leave Washington after giving tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations, while we ignore the enormous problems facing the middle class and working families of our country,” Sanders said.
In his speech, he outlined the priorities that must be addressed before the end of the year.
DACA: “Any end of the year spending agreement must address the fear and uncertainty unnecessarily caused by the administration’s reckless actions, and a clean DREAM Act must be signed into law. This is not just what Bernie Sanders wants. A Quinnipiac poll came out the other day in which 77 percent of the American people supported maintaining legal status for these young people and allowing them to move forward towards citizenship.”
Community Health Centers: “If we do not act soon, 70 percent of community health center funding will be cut, and 2,800 health centers will close their doors. Further, 51,000 jobs will be lost, and 9 million patients will lose access to their health care. That would be unacceptable. Community Health Centers must funded at the levels contained in the bipartisan legislation introduced earlier this year by Senators Blunt and Stabenow.”
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): “If CHIP is not reauthorized, 9 million children in working families will lose their health insurance. These children are covered by CHIP because their families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford private health insurance. Anything short of a full CHIP reauthorization will cause unnecessary confusion and stress for working families and their children. And this re-authorization must not be offset by slashing the prevention fund or other unacceptable offsets.”
Multi-Employer Pensions: “If Congress does not act soon, the earned pension benefits of more than 1.5 million workers and retirees in multi-employer pension plans could be cut by up to 60 percent. When a worker is promised a pension benefit after a lifetime of hard work that promise must be kept. Congress needs to act before the end of the year to make sure that no one in America in a multi-employer pension plan will see their pension cut.”
Social Security Administration: “Since 2010, Congress has cut Social Security’s operating budget by 16 percent and Republicans want to cut it another 4 percent this year….According to a recent Washington Post article, 10,000 people died in the past year waiting for a decision on Social Security disability benefits. We need to increase funding for these vital services by at least $1.4 billion just to bring staffing back up to 2010 levels.”
Student Loan Forgiveness: “Because of problems with student loan servicing and complicated program requirements, there are tens of thousands of student loan borrowers who might not get the forgiveness they’ve earned. That would be unacceptable. Congress must fix this problem now to make sure that 150,000 Americans can receive the student loan forgiveness they have earned and deserve.”
Rural Infrastructure: “Rural America is being shortchanged by the current, arbitrary funding caps set under the Budget Control Act. We need to bolster infrastructure investments in rural America by more than $2 billion, which are not being adequately funded under the current, arbitrary funding caps set by the Budget Control Act."
Fight the Opioid and Mental Health Epidemic: “With this upcoming funding bill, Congress needs to double funding for mental health. That would send an extra billion dollars to programs that right now support treatment for more than 7 million people and provide training and resources to help identify mental health crises.”
To watch Sanders' speech, click here.