Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks with reporters in the Senate subway on Tuesday, December 8, 2020.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks with reporters in the Senate subway on Tuesday, December 8, 2020. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

'The Time Is Now to Go Forward': Sanders Says Dems Can't Waste Time Catering to Obstructionist GOP

"When the scientists tell us we have five or six years before there will be irreparable damage done because of climate change, I'm not going to slow down."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said Saturday that amid the immediate emergencies of climate change, Covid-19, mass unemployment, and homelessness, congressional Democrats cannot afford to dampen their infrastructure ambitions in the hopes of winning support from obstructionist Republicans.

"The time is now to go forward," Sanders (I-Vt.) told the Washington Post. "This country faces enormous crises that have got to be addressed right now. When you have half a million people who are homeless, I'm not going to slow down."

"This country faces enormous crises that have got to be addressed right now. When you have half a million people who are homeless, I'm not going to slow down."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

"When the scientists tell us we have five or six years before there will be irreparable damage done because of climate change," the Vermont senator added, "I'm not going to slow down."

Sanders' remarks came as the Democratic leadership is weighing how to proceed with the roughly $2.3 trillion infrastructure package President Joe Biden unveiled last month, a proposal that will serve as a starting point for congressional negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she hopes to pass infrastructure legislation by July.

But unified Republican opposition to the package and growing complaints from conservative deficit scolds within the Democratic caucus are threatening to impede work on the package that progressives hope to transform into a sprawling bill that deals with a wide range of priorities, from climate to affordable housing to prescription drug prices.

On Monday, the Senate parliamentarian gave Democrats a green light to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process for additional spending legislation this year, granting the party the option to move ahead with an infrastructure measure without Republican support.

Sanders told the Post that he is preparing to use the reconciliation tool, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has not publicly committed to that strategy as the Biden administration continues to hold out hope for a bipartisan compromise. With the legislative filibuster in place, Senate Democrats would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass an infrastructure bill through regular order.

"The president believes that there's a path forward to get... this American Jobs Plan passed with bipartisan support," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a Thursday briefing. "That's why he's going to invite Democrats and Republicans here. That's why he's going to hear from them on their ideas that they've already put forward."

But progressive lawmakers have cautioned the Biden administration against weakening an infrastructure package they believe is already insufficient in a likely futile effort to win over Republican lawmakers, who unanimously voted against a broadly popular $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package last month.

"Let's not water down a bill for a party that's not actually interested in bipartisanship or wait for Republicans to have some awakening on climate change," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said earlier this month. "Let's move with the urgency and boldness that this moment calls for."

In a report released Thursday, Adam Hersh of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mark Paul of the New College of Florida argued that under-spending in response to the current crises risks long-term damage to the economy and the climate—a warning progressives cited as all the more reason to quickly push ahead with an ambitious recovery package.

In an appearance on MSNBC Saturday, Sanders said that Republican lawmakers are "probably not" going to accept arguments in support of big spending on climate solutions, core infrastructure, caregiving, and more.

"They live in their world, and their world will be trying to obstruct as much as possible what Biden and many of us in the Congress are trying to do," Sanders said, arguing that the GOP's top priority is "trying to divide us up by stressing xenophobia, racism, [and] making it harder for people to vote."

"Our job," Sanders said, "is to rally the American people around an agenda that works for workers and the middle class, who have been neglected for so many years. It is the right thing to do policy-wise, it is the right thing to do politically."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

Progressives Say 'Do What the People Want and Tax the Rich' to Pay for Infrastructure

"It is obvious that if we're going to address the needs of working families in this country, we need revenue," says Sen. Bernie Sanders, "and one way that we get that revenue is by demanding that the wealthiest people, the largest corporations are paying their fair share."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


Doctors Without Borders Calls on BioNTech to Share Vaccine Tech With World

"The faster companies share the know-how, the faster we can put an end to this pandemic."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·


Over 30,000 US Veterans of Post-9/11 Wars Have Killed Themselves Since 2001

"As we come closer to the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we must reflect on the mental health cost of the Global War on Terror."

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


Sunrise Ends 400-Mile Climate March With Arrests at Ted Cruz's House

The Gulf South marchers demand that Congress and the Biden White House pass bold climate jobs legislation, including a bill to create a Civilian Climate Corps.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


Global Hopes in Doubt After G7 Fails to Meet Climate Finance Pledges for Poor Nations

"I'd have really hoped for a clearer signal on how and when we will be able to see the commitment to mobilize the $100 billion fulfilled."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·