BURLINGTON, Vt., Jan. 5 – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sharply criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Friday for his efforts to end seven years of budget agreements regarding parity for defense and non-defense spending. Sanders feared that McConnell was pushing the Senate toward a government shutdown with his efforts to end these longstanding bipartisan agreements. Sanders said:
"I am not quite sure why Senate Majority Leader McConnell is pushing the Senate toward a government shutdown by his insistence on ending the longstanding bi-partisan budget agreements over parity for defense and non-defense spending. This agreement is enormously important for working families and is something that cannot be terminated. Today, domestic funding for education, nutrition assistance, affordable housing and other important programs is on track to be at a 40-year low as a percentage of GDP. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has been largely inoculated from cuts as a result of the Overseas Contingency Operations loophole that is not subject to the spending caps established in 2011.
"Budget parity for defense and non-defense spending is not some kind of esoteric, inside-the-Beltway matter. It is of enormous importance for the working families of our country. The U.S. government must do more than provide huge tax breaks to billionaires, greatly expand military spending, deny the reality of climate change and threaten to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs. We must stand up for the millions of working families in our country who continue to fall behind.
"Providing parity in these budget negotiations means fully funding the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Community Health Center program without offsets. It means increased funding for the Social Security Administration and the Veterans Administration so that they can provide guaranteed benefits to seniors and veterans. It means keeping our promises to 1.5 million workers who are about to lose a large part of the pensions they were promised. It means addressing the crisis of student debt, expanding childcare and improving the infrastructure in rural America. It means providing help in the national struggle against opioid and heroin addiction.
"Further, we must immediately pass legislation protecting the Dreamers. As a result of President Trump's cruel decision on Sept. 5, 2017, some 800,000 young people in our country are now living in extreme anxiety. These Dreamers, who have known the United States of America as their only home, are now on the verge of losing their legal status and their ability to get an education, employment or serve in the military.
“Without the legal protections afforded by the DACA program, these young people live in constant fear of being deported. Since the president's announcement in September, more than 11,000 people have already lost the protections under DACA, with approximately 22,000 set to lose their legal protections by the March 5, 2018 deadline. Any new spending agreement must include the passage of a clean Dream Act which must be signed into law as part of the budget negotiations. This is not a radical idea. It's what the American people want. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that 77 percent of the American people support providing legal protections for the Dreamers. This is an issue that must be dealt with and it must be dealt with now.
“Further, in the coming weeks, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands must get the disaster relief they need to rebuild their communities after the devastating hurricanes they experienced. In Puerto Rico today there continues to be many, many people who still do not have electricity, potable drinking water or adequate shelter. We must pass disaster relief right now, which is adequate, which treats Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands just as we will treat Texas and Florida. We cannot continue to delay given the enormous suffering that currently exists."