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Bernie Sanders: I Could Not, in Good Conscience, Vote for the Debt Ceiling Bill

This bill cuts programs for the most vulnerable, and is totally unnecessary – why doesn’t Biden invoke the 14th amendment?

Bernie Sanders, by Nathan Congleton (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Let’s be clear. The original debt ceiling legislation that Republicans passed in the House would have, over a 10-year period, decimated the already inadequate social safety net of our country and made savage cuts to programs that working families, the children, the sick, the elderly and the poor desperately needed.

The best thing to be said about the current deal on the debt ceiling is that it could have been much worse. Instead of making massive cuts to healthcare, housing, education, childcare, nutrition assistance and other vital programs over the next decade, this bill proposes to make modest cuts to these programs over a 2-year period. This bill will also prevent a global economic catastrophe by extending the debt ceiling until January 1, 2025 – when we will have to go through with this absurd process once again.

Having said that, on Thursday night I voted against the bill.

At a time when this country is rapidly moving toward Oligarchy, with more wealth and income inequality than we’ve ever experienced, I could not in good conscience vote for a bill that cuts programs for the most vulnerable while refusing to ask billionaires to pay a penny more in taxes. Wall Street and corporate interests may be enthusiastic about this bill, but I believe it moves us in exactly the wrong direction.

I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that makes it harder for working families to afford the outrageously high price of childcare, housing and healthcare while, by cutting IRS funding, actually make it easier for the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America to cheat on their taxes.

At a time when climate change is an existential threat to our country and the entire world I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute and destroy the planet by fast-tracking the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline. When the future of the world is literally at stake we must have the courage to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them, and the politicians they sponsor, that the future of the planet is more important than their short-term profits.

At a time when we spend more on the military than the next 10 nations combined I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that increases funding for the bloated Pentagon and large defense contractors that continue to make huge profits by fleecing American taxpayers with impunity. Let us not forget that the Pentagon is the only federal agency that cannot pass an independent audit or account for trillions of dollars in spending.

At a time when the pharmaceutical industry is charging the American people, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that does nothing to take on the greed of the big drug companies that are bankrupting Medicare and cancer patients while spending tens of billions of dollars on stock buybacks and dividends.

At a time when over 45 million Americans are drowning in student debt I could not, in good conscience, vote for a bill that eliminates the moratorium on student loan payments that has been a lifeline to millions of working-class families during the pandemic.

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Deficit reduction cannot just be about cutting programs that working families, the children, the sick, the elderly and the poor depend upon. It must be about demanding that the billionaire class and profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes, reining in out of control military spending, saving Medicare tens of billions on prescription drugs costs and ending billions of dollars in corporate welfare that goes to the fossil fuel industry and other corporate interests.

The fact of the matter is that this bill was totally unnecessary. The President has the authority and the ability to eliminate the debt ceiling today by invoking the 14th Amendment. I look forward to the day when he exercises this authority and puts an end, once and for all, to the outrageous actions of the extreme right-wing to hold our entire economy hostage in order to protect their corporate sponsors.

Bernie Sanders is a US Senator, and Chairman of the health education labor and pensions committee. He represents the state of Vermont, and is the longest-serving independent in the history of Congress

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