WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivered a live streamed response to President Donald Trump’s oval office address. See below for full remarks as prepared:
Thank you very much for joining me.
President Trump has stated tonight, and, over and over again in recent weeks, that this country faces a national emergency. Well, he’s right. But it’s an emergency and a crisis that he himself has created.
As we speak, some 800,000 federal employees, people who are our neighbors, friends, and family members are going without pay. As working people, many of them are wondering how they will pay their mortgages, how they will feed their kids, and how they’ll be able to go to the doctor. These are people in the FBI, in the TSA, in the State Department, in the Treasury Department and other agencies who have, in some cases, worked for the government for years.
Let me just quote what one federal employee has said: “I’m a single mom and a federal employee. I have $100 to last me – and my vehicle payments will not be made this month. I live paycheck to paycheck and I can’t get a side job because I still have to go to my unpaid federal job.”
Our federal employees deserve to be treated with respect, not held hostage as political pawns.
Further, if this government shutdown continues, and Trump has indicated that he is prepared to shut it down for months, if not years, millions of Americans including the disabled, the children, and the elderly may not be able to get the Food Stamps they need to eat.
Pregnant mothers and their babies may go without the nutrition assistance they need to stay healthy as the WIC program is on the verge of running out of money.
Small businesses and farmers will not be able to receive the financial assistance they need – and some may go out of business.
Security at our nation’s airports could be threatened if TSA employees and air traffic controllers are not getting paid.
People who are buying or selling their homes may see significant delays because the Federal Housing Administration is unable to process and approve mortgage applications.
Let me be as clear as I can be: This shutdown should never have happened.
As many of you will recall, on December 19th, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to keep the government open. Unanimously. No Democrat or Republican opposed the bill that passed the Senate.
It was widely expected that the following morning, December 20th, the House would do the same – and the government would remain open.
Unfortunately, President Trump, who started receiving criticism from an assortment of right-wing ideologues, changed his mind about the agreement and said that he would not sign any bill unless it included $5.7 billion for a wall on the southern border. And, by the way, the total cost of that wall could run as high as $70 billion.
In terms of this shutdown, President Trump has made it very clear who is responsible. As you will all recall in a very public meeting he held in the oval office he said and I quote “I am proud to shut down the government … I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you (Chuck Schumer) for it.”
On January 3rd, 2019, on their first day in the majority, the Democrats in the House passed legislation to re-open the government. This was exactly the same bill unanimously passed by the Senate.
Tonight, I urge Senate Majority Leader McConnell to allow that bill to come to the floor to get a vote. This is the same bill that he supported when it was unanimously passed in the Senate.
Senator McConnell: let’s vote to end this shutdown now in a bipartisan way.
President Trump tonight has told us why he believes we need the wall. It gives me no pleasure to tell you what most of you already know. President Trump lies all of the time – and in his remarks tonight, and in recent weeks regarding immigration and the wall, he continues to lie.
Just a few examples. Trump has told the American people several hundred times that Mexico would pay for the wall. That is a lie. If this wall were to be built, Mexico would not pay for it. American taxpayers would.
Trump said that thousands upon thousands of terrorists are entering the U.S. from the southern border. That is a lie.
According to a State Department report released in September, “At year’s end there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have … sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.”
That is not Bernie Sanders opinion. That is a direct quote from Trump’s own State Department.
Trump recently said that some ex-presidents told him that they should have built a wall. That is a lie. All 4 living ex-presidents have stated clearly that they never talked to Trump about their desire to build a wall.
Trump said that we need a wall to prevent heroin, fentanyl and other illegal drugs from coming into the country. Another lie.
According to Donald Trump’s own Drug Enforcement Administration, the most common method Mexican cartels use to transport illegal drugs over the Southwest border is through legal ports of entry using passenger vehicles.
And on and on it goes.
In terms of immigration in this country, what we need to do is not to waste billions of dollars on a wall, but to finally address the need for comprehensive immigration reform – including improved border security. It is inhumane that tiny children at the border have been torn away from their parents. It is disgraceful that 1.8 million young people, raised in the United States, and who know no other country but the United States, have lost their legal protection under the DACA program because of Trump’s actions. It is heartbreaking that almost 11 million undocumented people living in this country, the overwhelming majority of whom are hard-working and law-abiding, worry every day about being deported and separated from their loved ones.
Sadly, what President Trump is trying to do is to create fear and hatred in our country. Instead of trying to bring us together as a people, he is trying to divide us up. And, in the process, divert our attention away from the real crises facing the working families of this nation.
President Trump, you want to talk about crises. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, tens of millions of workers in our country are earning starvation wages and are unable to adequately provide for their families.
You want a national emergency? 30 million Americans have no health insurance and many more are under-insured. Thousands die each year because they don’t go to a doctor when they should and our life expectancy is actually in decline. While the pharmaceutical industry makes tens of billions a year in profit, 1 in 5 Americans can’t afford the medicine they need. Now, that’s a crisis we should be working on right now.
And here’s another crisis. Too many of our seniors are living in desperate poverty, and about half of older Americans have no retirement savings. Hundreds of thousands of kids cannot afford to go to college and over 40 million are trying to deal with outrageous levels of student debt. What are we going to do about those crises?
And maybe, here’s the biggest crisis of all. The scientific community has made it very clear in telling us that climate change is real and is causing devastating harm to our country and the entire planet. And they have told us that if we do not transform our energy system away from fossil fuel the nation and planet we will be leaving our kids and grandchildren may well be unhealthy and even uninhabitable.
Mr. President, we don’t need to create artificial crises. We have enough real ones. Let us end this shutdown and bring the American people together around an agenda that will improve life for all of our people.