As Congress careened toward a possible government shutdown in a week and a half, Sen. Bernie Sanders worried that might be just what Tea Party Republicans want. “They believe, in fact, that a government shutdown is not necessarily a bad thing because they don’t believe much in government,” Sanders said on Thursday. The budget brinksmanship capped a week when the House voted on Thursday to throw 4 million hungry children, seniors and others off food stamps, when a Census Bureau report on Tuesday showed middle-class family income is less now than a generation ago, and when the capital city was on edge after a gunman on Monday killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard two miles from the Capitol.
Budget Showdown The Republican-controlled House voted Friday to defund a new national health care law. The provision was inserted in a must-pass measure needed to keep the government running after the new budget year begins on Oct. 1. The House vote sets up a confrontation with the Senate, which time after time has rejected attempts to undo the health care law. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the House Republican ploy only postpones for a few days a choice they must make to either fund the government or force a shutdown. Sanders, in a Senate floor speech on Thursday, worried that Tea Party Republicans are prepared to “dismember the United States government and wreak havoc with the lives of tens of millions of people.” Even if a shutdown is averted, working families could be hurt. The House version of the budget resolution would freeze in place sequestration cuts that have slashed Head Start, Meals on Wheels, home heating assistance and other programs.
Food Stamps House Republicans on Thursday voted to cut nearly $40 billion from nutrition programs over a decade and push 4 million Americans off food stamps beginning next year. Sen. Bernie Sanders called the 217-to-210 vote “beyond shameful.” The United States, he added in an interview on MSNBC, “cannot go to war against people who are struggling to keep their heads above water.” Watch the interview
Angry, Disgusted, Frustrated The typical middle-class American family made less last year than in 1989, according to a new Census Bureau report released on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Forbes magazine on Monday reported that the 400 wealthiest Americans doubled what they were worth a decade ago and “finally gained back all that they lost” in the 2008 economic collapse. “You want to know why the American people are angry and disgusted and frustrated?” Sanders asked in a Senate floor speech on Wednesday. “That's why.” Watch the speech
The Fed Former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers last Sunday withdrew as a candidate to replace Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke when his term runs out in January. The former adviser to Presidents Obama and Clinton faced mounting opposition in the Senate because of his role in deregulating financial institutions before the 2008 financial collapse. “The truth is that it was unlikely he would have been confirmed by the Senate,” Sanders said. “What the American people want now is a Fed chairman prepared to stand up to the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, not a Wall Street insider whose deregulation efforts helped pave the way for a horrendous financial crisis and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”
Obama Drifting from Democrats Summers’ withdrawal was the latest example of disenchantment with President Obama within his own party. He also met resistance to Social Security benefit cuts, his plan to launch military strikes against in Syria and his administration’s domestic spying operations. “There are many issues … where the president is moving in a direction which is very different from [what] the people who voted for him want,” Sanders told The Boston Globe. Senate Democrats complain that Obama has surrendered the upper hand to Republicans. “If you read the papers, you almost think the Republicans are in control,” Sanders told The New York Times. “They're constantly on the offensive. Democrats are on the defensive.” He predicted that senators would show greater independence from the White House.
Dental Crisis Bills were introduced on Wednesday by Sanders in the Senate and by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings in the House to improve access to dental care. The legislation was filed one week after a new government study documented skyrocketing costs and limited access to dental care. “When people cannot get to a dentist when they need one, they often end up in emergency rooms. It just doesn’t make sense for us to spend so much money on those who wind up in hospitals but refuse to help people get the care they need before it’s too late,” Sanders said.
Global Warming The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday proposed to limit emissions from new power plants. Sanders, a member of the Senate environment and energy committees, applauded the “common-sense standards to reduce the carbon pollution that causes global warming” but said “much more must be done to avoid a planetary crisis.”
Citizen Koch The Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United opened the floodgates for unlimited, unregulated campaign spending by corporations and wealthy individuals. Sanders and Rep. Ted Deutch have proposed a constitutional amendment to undo the disastrous decision. They hosted a forum on Tuesday with People for the American Way President Michael Keegan, Public Citizen President Rob Weissman, The Nation’s John Nichols and Tia Lessem. The documentary filmmaker whose “Citizen Koch” exposed how the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch and others have used their vast fortune to influence American elections.