Atop the Powerful Budget Committee at Last, Bernie Sanders Wants to Go Big
Campaigns for Joe Biden, then the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Lebanon, N.H. 3 Oct. 2020.
(The New York Times) (Elizabeth Frantz)
Shortly before the 2016 election, the Republican candidate for Vice-Chairman and Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told a gathering of university Republicans that he claimed the Democrats taking control of the Senate was a political nightmare.
"Do you know who will become chairman of the Spending Committee of the Senate?
"Bernie Sanders was a man named.
You ever heard about him? You ever heard?
Republicans have long dreaded the possibility of Vermont's self-decribed democratic socialist Sanders taking over the influential committee considering his approval of a larger government and more federal borrowed money spending.
This apprehension is about to become a reality as Democrats reassert the Senate.
Sanders, the most advanced in the house, will play a vital role in forming and overseeing the economic and expenditure policies of the Democrats through a Congress that they dominate by the slimest margins.
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Sanders, an independent who has been a caucus of the Democrats and who struggled twice to successfully nominate the party boss, said that shortly after President-elect Joe Biden took office, he would act quickly in his new position to drive through a powerful economic recovery plan that was funded by the deficit.
"I think the crisis is extremely serious and we must move as quickly as we can," Sanders said in an interview.
"Stress the word aggressive," he added.
"Start there." "Start there."
Sanders is expected to have a strong effect on taxes, health care, climate change and many other domestic issues amid Democrat's narrow control of the Senate.
Since his position as budget president would give him leverage over a little established, but extremely powerful Congressional instrument that will allow certain forms of legislation to gain the consent of the Senate with a simple majority.
This instrument — known as the reconciliation budget process — helps Congress to pass such bills without receiving 60 votes.
It has been the platform for many primary parliamentary measures this century, including tax reform under President Donald Trump and President George W. Bush and the final iteration of the signing bill for healthcare under President Barack Obama.
The compromise process starts with elected members passing a spending resolution originated in the Budget Committee of House and Senate, which could include instructions to congressional commissions about how much federal funding or taxes are to be raised.
The essence of the mechanism ultimately leads Sanders to determine how expansive – and costly – the plans of Biden for new taxation and expenditures would be.
In his interview, Sanders said he needed a "big" initial Emergency Stimulus Kit, which, in addition to the $600 Congress recently provided, should include an extra $1,400 in direct payment for adults and infants, and funds for the states and cities to finance the delivery, monitoring and recording of coronavirus vaccines.
He would also like to establish a national humanitarian emergency so that everyone would access medical attention after the pandemic, whether covered or not.
He spoke to Biden about the size and timing of stimulus legislation, Sanders said.
He said he wouldn't attempt to push his long-standing goals, such as "Medicare for All," into a relief bill.
However, he plans to test how reconciliation can be used to allow Democrats to implement strategies that go beyond conventional budget items and answer "structural questions in American society."
Neither Biden nor Sanders stated the exact scale of the following stimulus package, while his proposals are scheduled to be outlined by the President-elect on Thursday.
Sanders pointed out that the bill, which could cost over $1 trillion, had to strive to "graduate" income, implying that it would press for tax hikes for the rich and businesses.
The specifics of such tax rises will come from the Finance Committee under the Senate process chaired by a Liberal Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon, who has promised to actively encourage bonuses and lift taxes for businesses and the wealthy as well.
"You must begin by saying that everyone has its fair share to pay." Wyden said in an interview.
Biden's assistants state they are working closely with Sanders and the representatives of the other committee who are drafting the law in order to fit Biden's political dreams into the legislative language.
But dialogue and consensus are required.
Sanders' plans for the presidential race dwarfed Biden's expense and scope.
Biden did not fully advocate Medicare for All and did not stress the extension of Sanders' temporary health care program as he laid out his goals for the next stimulus.
A indication of the magnitude of their partnership, Biden said last week that he almost caught up with Sanders for being his secretary of jobs, but decided against it, because in a special election it would risk losing Sanders' seat — and control of the Senate.
More mainstream Democrats in the Senate may also be a problem considering the narrow majority of the party.
Few democrats reject many of the investment measures suggested by Biden and several endorsed by Sanders.
Even those measures that seemed to unify may become roadblocks.
Last week, Senator Joe Manchin of western Virginia, the chamber's most centrist Democrat, found out that additional $1,400 for direct payments per person is not a top priority of his benefit bill, even though he did not deny voting for extended payments.
Sanders said that he wanted to collaborate with Biden and the democratic representatives in the Senate, abandoning his battle for Medicare for everybody in the health committee.
He said he was sure that his reconciliation law "will have strong democratic support."
Harry Reid, a former leader of the majority Democratic Senate, said that Sanders was not as ideological in his Committee work as his presidential campaigns might indicate.
In 2014 Reid chose Sanders as a leading member of the Budget Committee and repelled his Democrat colleagues' opposition, who worried that Sanders was a threat because he was a democratic socialist.
"Although he is known to be a true progressive socialist, my caucus was never a problem," Reid said in an interview.
"He tried not to be rebellious."
Sanders will be faced with some sensitive issues, such as approval by Neera Tanden, Biden's position as Management and Budget Head.
Tanden was Hillary Clinton's top assistant, who defeated Sanders on behalf of the 2016 democratic presidential nominee, a victory which still ranks many of Sanders' advanced supporters.
After the polls, Tanden and Sanders confronted Tanden, and in 2019 Sanders threatened Tanden with maligning my staff and allies and weakening democratic ideals, after Tanden's ThinkProgress, an autonomous editorial arm, blamed Sanders for the scale of his book revenue.
"Don't worry about Neera right now," Sanders said, adding that the stimulus is his highest priority.
In order to prevent the risk of a Political defection, Sanders will also have to court certain Republicans even though his party has attacked its future presidency in recent elections.
Lindsey Graham from the South Carolina, who on Twitter in October vowed he would chair the Budget Committee if his party won the Senate, not the "socialist Bernie Sanders."
Grover Norquist, a conservative American tax policy lobbyist and chairman, said that Sanders' lead would only increase the increasing federal deficit.
"He has no sense of discipline in total figures for the budget, so heaven is the limit for him," Norquist said.
"Toward more, more, more, more, without a place to rest."
Sanders was asked about the concerns of the Conservatives.
He said that polling found that tax rises and budget increases were common with a significant number of voter classes, including Republicans, even as the members of the party appeared to oppose them.
"They should be worried," he said, referring to his fellow Republicans.
Still, he added, it shouldn't be their voters.
Originally reported in The New York Times.
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