Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer on Capitol

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), right, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), are seen in the U.S. Capitol on Monday, August 9, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Instead of Giveaways to the Rich, We Will Use Reconciliation to Serve Working People and Heal the Planet

As we address the needs of working families, and combat climate change, we are going to create millions of good paying jobs, many of them union jobs.

The following remarks, as prepared for delivery, were given by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Tuesday, August 10, 2021 as the Senate began consideration of the FY 2022 budget resolution and reconciliation instructions:

Let me begin by thanking President Biden and Majority Leader Schumer for their leadership in the arduous process which has gotten us to where we are today.

Mr. President: I do understand that many of my Republican colleagues are in a bit of shock now. They are finding it hard to believe that the president and the Democratic Caucus are prepared to go forward in addressing the long neglected needs of working families, and not just the 1% and wealthy campaign contributors. That's not the way things usually happen around here. Usually it's the big money interests and the lobbyists who call the tunes. But not today. Today, we move the country forward in a different direction.

Mr. President: The American people are sick and tired of growing income and wealth inequality in our country where two people own more wealth than the bottom 40%, where the 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 92%, and where 45% of all new income has gone to the top one percent since 2009. Meanwhile, while the very rich have become much richer the gross unfairness of our current tax system has allowed, in a given year, some of the wealthiest people in the world and largest and most profitable corporations to not pay to not pay a nickel in federal income tax.

Well, that's about to change. The American people want a government which represents all of us, and not just the few. This legislation is going to ask the wealthy and the powerful to start paying their fair share of taxes so that we can address the needs of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. And, despite what Republicans may be saying, no one in America who makes less than $400,000 a year will a nickel more in federal taxes. In fact, what we are looking at is an historic tax cut for working families and the middle class.

Further, at a time when California and Oregon are on fire, when Greece is burning and when countries throughout the world are experiencing unprecedented drought, this legislation begins the process of combating climate change so that our kids and our grandchildren can live in a country and a planet which is healthy and habitable. It would be immoral and an absolute dereliction of our responsibilities as Senators to do anything less. We cannot ignore climate change any longer. Now is the time for our great country to lead the world out of this existential crisis.

And, by the way, as we address the needs of working families, and combat climate change, we are going to create millions of good paying jobs, many of them union jobs.

Let me very briefly describe some of what's in this budget proposal.

First, we are finally going to address the disgrace of the United States having the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth. We are going to provide the long awaited for help that working parents all over this country desperately need, and when we do that we will substantially reduce childhood poverty in this country. We're going to do that by extending the Child Tax Credit so that families continue to receive monthly direct payments of up to $300 per child. We began that process in the American Rescue Plan. It has been enormously successful and has already helped reduce childhood poverty in our country by 61%.

Further, we will address the crisis in childcare by making sure that no working family pays more than 7 percent of their income on this basic need. Making child care more accessible and affordable will also strengthen our economy by allowing more than a million women to join the work force.

And we will expand public education by providing universal pre-kindergarten to every 3-and-4-year-old.

We will end the international disgrace of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave as a right.

We will begin to address the crisis in higher education by making community colleges in America tuition-free.

We will take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry and save taxpayers hundreds of billions by requiring that Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry.

And we will use those savings to expand Medicare by covering the dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses that seniors desperately need. We will also substantially increase the number of doctors, nurses, and dentists who practice in underserved areas and expand the community health center program into new areas.

We will combat homelessness in America and address the reality that nearly 18 million households are paying over 50 percent of their income for housing by an unprecedented investment in affordable housing.

We will ensure that people in an aging society can receive the health care they need in their own homes instead of expensive and inadequate nursing homes and that the workers who provide that care aren't forced to live on starvation wages.

We will bring undocumented people out of the shadows and provide them with a pathway to citizenship, including those who courageously kept our economy running in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

We will take on the existential threat of climate change by transforming our energy systems toward renewable energy and energy efficiency. Among many other provisions, a Civilian Climate Corps will give hundreds of thousands of young people good paying jobs and educational benefits as they get to work in saving our planet.

We will make it easier, not harder, for workers to join unions in America.

My Republican colleagues are upset that we are using the reconciliation process, and only 50 votes, to pass this budget. But let's be clear: This is not a new idea. When Republicans controlled the Senate they used reconciliation to pass trillions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 1% and large corporations.

When Republicans controlled the Senate they used reconciliation to make climate change worse by opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

When Republicans controlled the Senate they tried to use reconciliation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and throw 32 million Americans off of the health care they had.

Today, we will also use reconciliation, but we will use it much differently than the Republicans.

We will use it to benefit the working class, not the billionaire class.

Mr. President: It's no secret that millions of Americans are giving up on democracy and have lost faith in their government. Many of these people are working longer hours for lower wages and are seeing their children experience a lower standard of living than they had.

This legislation will not only provide enormous support to the kids of this country to the parents of this country, to the elderly people of this country, but it will also, I hope, restore the belief that in America we can have a government that works for all, not just the few.

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