'People are demanding action': Incoming Senate budget chair lays out visionary first 100 days for Biden

'People are demanding action': Incoming Senate budget chair lays out visionary first 100 days for Biden
CBS News screenshot

With President Joe Biden sworn in and Democrats set to officially take control of the U.S. Senate Wednesday afternoon, incoming Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders argued that the majority party must waste no time pushing ahead with an ambitious agenda aimed at confronting the immediate crises of Covid-19, economic calamity, and climate change and setting the U.S. on a more just and equitable path.

"The people are demanding action," Sanders said in an appearance on CBS News following Biden's inauguration. "The times call out for bold action on the part of the Congress, for a willingness for us to stand up to powerful special interests who want to maintain the status quo. That's what we gotta do, and we gotta do it quickly."

In an op-ed for The Guardian published Wednesday morning, the Vermont senator argued that with unified control of the federal government, Democrats have no excuse not to pass within the first 100 days legislation tackling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and economic collapse, guaranteeing healthcare to all, providing universal paid family and medical leave to workers, and securing a $15 federal minimum wage, on top of other key priorities.

Addressing critics who say such a sprawling legislative agenda is impractical given existing Senate obstacles such as the legislative filibuster, Sanders said Democrats can utilize the budget reconciliation process—which requires a simple majority instead of the usual 60 votes—to "act quickly and pass this emergency legislation."

"But that is not enough," the senator wrote. "This year we must also pass a second reconciliation bill that deals with the major structural changes that our country desperately needs. Ultimately, we must confront the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality and create a country that works for all and not just the few. Americans should no longer be denied basic economic rights that are guaranteed to people in virtually every other major country."

"There is no reason Joe Biden could not sign into law two major bills that will accomplish most of the goals I listed above within the first 100 days of the new Congress," Sanders continued. "We cannot allow Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership to sabotage legislation that would improve the lives of millions of working Americans and is wildly popular."

In late 2017, congressional Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to ram through deeply unpopular tax cuts that ultimately—as expected—delivered massive gains to the wealthy and large corporations while doing very little for everyone else.

Just over three years after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the austerity-obsessed GOP's nightmare scenario of Sanders taking charge of the budget committee became reality following Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff's victories earlier this month in a pair of Senate runoffs in Georgia, giving Democrats control of the upper chamber by the narrowest possible margin.

The Vermont senator has made clear that as chairman of the budget panel, he intends to use the reconciliation process just as aggressively as Republicans—but with an entirely different goal in mind.

"If the Republicans could use the reconciliation process to protect the wealthy and the powerful, we can use it to protect working families, the sick, the elderly, the disabled and the poor," Sanders wrote Wednesday.

In his interview on CBS, Sanders stressed that in the face of multi-faceted crises, Democrats can and must pursue multiple objectives at once, including robust coronavirus relief, the conviction of former President Donald Trump, and policies aimed at redressing longstanding crises of wealth concentration, widespread uninsurance, poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

"What is absolutely imperative now is that the Congress show the American people we can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time," the senator said. "In other words, we can impeach Trump, we can allow Biden's nominees to have hearings and be appointed, and, most importantly, we deal with the crises facing working families all over this country."

"We have got to move forward in an unprecedented way," Sanders continued. "As the incoming chairman of the budget committee, I'm going to do my best to make that happen."


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