"Does Washington work for all of us or just for those at the top?"
"The Republican agenda on healthcare and taxes may be popular with wealthy campaign donors, but it is widely disliked by the American people."
—Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
That is the question posed, and answered, by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a op-ed for the New York Times published Sunday night. With a tax bill written for the benefit of "wealthy campaign contributors" hurtling toward passage and with "welfare reform" targeting programs relied upon by low-income and middle class Americans waiting in the wings, the Republican-controlled Congress has been quite explicit about whose interests it serves.
"Over the past year, Republicans have made their priorities clear," Sanders and Warren write. "Their effort to repeal Obamacare would have left tens of millions of people without health insurance. Now Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate majority leader, wants to ram through an enormous tax giveaway to the wealthy before seating Doug Jones, Alabama's newly elected Democratic senator. The Republican agenda on healthcare and taxes may be popular with wealthy campaign donors, but it is widely disliked by the American people."
Sanders and Warren argue that these priorities are inverted. At a time of soaring inequality, Congress should be attempting to shrink the gap between the wealthiest and everyone else, not make it larger, the progressive senators suggest. With tens of millions of Americans lacking insurance, Congress should be working toward expanding healthcare—not adding millions more to the ranks of the uninsured.
With the Friday deadline to fund the government rapidly approaching, Congress has "a chance, right now, to take steps that will make life a bit better for millions of working people immediately and in the years to come," Sanders and Warren write.
First and foremost, Congress "must take care of several urgent, overdue responsibilities that Republicans have ignored," including taking action to protect 800,000 Dreamers whose legal immigration status is at risking to renewing "expired funding for community health centers and the Children's Health Insurance Program so that tens of millions of families and nine million children don't lose access to affordable healthcare."
In addition to meeting these "basic" obligations, Sanders and Warren argue that Congress must address a handful of budgetary "crises" if it is to demonstrate that it doesn't merely serve "wealthy campaign donors." (Unlike the tax bill that Republicans are expected to bring to a vote as early as Tuesday, the budget bill will require Democratic support to pass.)
The senators' recommendations include:
- Doubling federal support for child care in the 2018 spending legislation;
- Acting to lessen the burden of student loan debt, which is at an all-time high of $1.4 trillion;
- "Shoring up" pensions and Social Security to protect them from the "Wall Street greed that made our economy crash in 2008"; and
- Doubling funding for key mental health programs, which are "critical to fighting the opioid epidemic, which is raging across the country without regard to politics—devastating workers and families in our home states of Massachusetts and Vermont, but also in Senator McConnell's Kentucky."
"With a government funding deadline looming, GOP leadership faces a choice," Warren concluded on Twitter. "Will they spend the week trying to deliver tax breaks for the rich? Or work with Dems to pass a budget that supports working people?"
In a video, Sanders and Warren further outlined their proposals:
With a government funding deadline looming, GOP leadership face a choice. Will they spend the week trying to deliver tax breaks for the rich? Or work with Dems to pass a budget that supports working people? pic.twitter.com/7Q3SeeWLTP
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) December 18, 2017