Aug 9, 2021
Bernie Sanders Budget Resolution Senate Floor Speech Transcript
Senator Bernie Sanders spoke about the infrastructure bill and budget resolution on the Senate floor on August 9, 2021. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
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Bernie Sanders: (00:01)
Madam President, as a former mayor I do understand how important physical infrastructure is. Roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants. And I am delighted that finally, we are beginning to address our long neglected physical infrastructure. Frankly, it is rather incredible that year after year, we ignore crumbling bridges and roads. And as we address how physical infrastructure we can create a whole lot of good paying jobs. So that bill that we are discussing right now is enormously important. But Madam President, I will tell you what is even more important. And that is to address the long neglected needs of the working families of our country, of the children, of the elderly, of the sick, of the poor, whether they are black or white or Latino, Native American, Asian American. These are needs that Congress has ignored for much, much too long.
Bernie Sanders: (01:22)
Now I understand that Senator McConnell, the Republican leader and others are really shocked by this bill. They cannot believe it. Imagine, just imagine that the United States Senate is addressing the needs of working families, and it was going to stand up for ordinary Americans rather than just the wealthy and powerful. What is this world coming to? Don’t we understand that here in the Senate, we’re supposed to take campaign contributions from the drug companies and the insurance companies and the fossil fuel industry and from the 1% and do their bidding? Isn’t that the way it has always been done here in the US Senate?
Bernie Sanders: (02:13)
Well, Senator McConnell, things are changing. For once in a very long time, the United States Congress is going to stand with working families and not just the rich and the powerful. Further, above and beyond the economic crises facing working families, Congress has ignored the great existential threat of our time, and that is climate change. You don’t have to believe me. Maybe some of my Republican colleagues might want to take a look at IPCC report, which came out today, which said that if we do not act boldly and immediately all over this planet, the world that we will be leaving our children and grandchildren will be increasingly unhealthy and uninhabitable. But you don’t have to just read the IPCC report, open up your eyes, look at what is going on in California. The fires in Oregon, the fires in Greece, the drought that is impacting countries all over the world, which will mean a decrease in food production and water supply.
Bernie Sanders: (03:51)
Madam President, we have got to act now in order to save the planet. There is no choice. We cannot go home and look our children and grandchildren in the eye if we do not act now and lead the world. We can’t do it alone. We’re going to have to work with China and India and Europe, but we cannot continue to ignore this existential threat.
Bernie Sanders: (04:26)
Madam President, the gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is wider today than it has been in a hundred years. People on top doing phenomenally well. In fact, we have two people in America today who own more wealth than the bottom 40%. The top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 92%. And since 2009, the Wall Street collects 45% of all new income has gone to the top 1%. And incredibly during the pandemic that we are experiencing now, billionaires in America have seen their wealth increase by $1.8 trillion during this pandemic. While at the same time, thousands of essential workers died providing the goods and services we needed. Billionaires become richer. Ordinary people have to go to work, public transit, grocery stores, hospitals, and thousands die.
Bernie Sanders: (05:48)
While some of our multi-multi billionaires are spending some of their enormous amounts of money flying off into outer space, today and in the coming days, we are going to address the crises facing working families right here on the grounds on planet Earth. And that is why Madam President as chairman of the Senate budget committee, I am proud to introduce a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that we will soon be considering I expect tomorrow. This is a budget resolution that will allow the Senate to move forward on a reconciliation bill that in my view will be the most consequential and comprehensive piece of legislation for working people, for the elderly, for the children, for the sick and for the poor that this body has addressed since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the New Deal in the 1930s.
Bernie Sanders: (07:04)
Madam President, this is a budget resolution that will address the needs of working families because we understand if our Republican colleagues do not, that there is something fundamentally wrong when real inflation accounted for wages for working people has not gone up for almost 50 years. We have seen in recent years, as everybody knows, an explosion in technology, an explosion in worker productivity. And yet in real life inflation accounted for dollars, while the very, very rich become much richer, real inflation accounted for wages for workers has not gone up in almost 50 years. What does that mean? It means the cost of healthcare has soared. The cost of-
Bernie Sanders: (08:03)
The cost of healthcare has soared. The cost of education has soared. The cost of housing has soared. And yet, real workers, real working families of this country are earning in real dollars the same wages that did decades ago. Which means that many of them are struggling right now to keep their heads above water economically. Not the president in the richest country in the history of the world, half of our people should not be living paycheck to paycheck worried about how they’re going to pay their rent or provide food for their kids. And this legislation in so many ways begins to address the working families of our country. But one important way, maybe the most important is as we address the needs of our people in healthcare, in education and climate, we are going to create many millions of good paying, good paying jobs that the American people desperately need.
Bernie Sanders: (09:24)
Madam President, I want to say a few words today about the budget resolution that we are introducing and what is going to be in the reconciliation package that we will soon be undertaking. For a start, one of the questions that everybody is going to ask is, “Well, how is this going to be paid for? Expensive bill.” Three and a half trillion dollars, you know that’s a lot of money. It is. Well, I happen to think and I know that you do as well, Madam President, that maybe just maybe the time is now for the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations who are doing phenomenally well, but in a given year many of them have not paid a nickel in federal income tax.
Bernie Sanders: (10:18)
Ah, the average Joe, the average Mary out there, they’re working, they’re paying their fair share of taxes. But if you’re an Amazon, if you’re a Jeff Bezos, if you’re one of these multi-billionaires you got lobbyists, you’ve got accountants, you’ve got lawyers and you can avoid paying your fair share of taxes. So what some of us are saying is that maybe just maybe even if you are a billionaire, even if you are a large profitable corporations with all kinds of lobbyists and accountants, maybe you should start paying your fair share of taxes. My Republican friends say, “We’re going to be raising taxes.” Well, you’re right, we are, but we’re going to be raising taxes on the wealthiest people in this country something which is long overdue. And yet, nobody in America earning less than $400,000 a year will pay a nickel in taxes. And many, many will actually be paying less in taxes. My Republican friends can complain all that they want, but I do believe and the American people do believe that the time is now for the wealthy, the powerful, for large profitable corporations to start paying their fair share. So that in fact, we can lower taxes for working families in this country.
Bernie Sanders: (11:57)
Madam President, I think the American people have already begun to see what good public policy for working families can mean. In Vermont and Massachusetts and all over this country, working families, the vast majority of our families are now receiving a $300 per month check per child. And this is long, long overdue. Some say, this is a radical idea. It’s not. It is exactly what countries all over the world do because they understand and we understand how difficult it is today for working families to raise children.
Bernie Sanders: (12:49)
And I am enormously proud of the fact and everybody in this chamber should be proud of the fact that at a time when the United States has by far that has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth. As a result of the work in the American Rescue Plan which must be extended in the reconciliation bill, we have reduced childhood poverty in America by 61%, 61% because we’re now getting the resources out to moms and dads that they need in order to adequately and decently raise their kids.
Bernie Sanders: (13:37)
So Madam President, I hear a lot of talk about how we love our kids who are the future of our country. Well, if we love our kids, we have to love their parents as well. And we have to make it easier for parents to raise their kids, but it’s not just the child tax credit. I suspect that there are very few people in this country who do not understand how dysfunctional our childcare system is. We are not living in the 1950s where dad goes out to work and mom stays home with the kids. And that’s not the case anymore, has not been the case for a very long time.
Bernie Sanders: (14:23)
Dad is out working and mom is out working because families all across this country need two breadwinners in order to pay the bills. While mom’s working, dad’s working, who is taking care of the kids? And that is in fact, a major, major crisis in this country and the current system just is not working. In my state, state of Vermont, it costs $15,000 a year which is about the national average to send your child into childcare. What does that mean? It means that if you’re making $60,000 a year, you’re spending a quarter of your income just to make sure that your child is well taken care of while you go to work.
Bernie Sanders: (15:12)
If you have two kids, forget about it. It doesn’t pay to go to work because you’re spending so much on childcare. Everybody understands that. That is not a debate. So the time is long overdue not only to protect the needs of working families, but also to provide well for our children. Psychologist after psychologist have told us that the most important years of human development are zero through four. And yet, so many of our kids all over this country, little kids, sitting in front of the TV sets not getting the kind of nurturing emotionally and intellectually that they need. This legislation begins to change that-
Bernie Sanders: (16:03)
This legislation begins to change that. Under our proposal, no working family in this country should be paying more than 7% of their income for childcare. Working parents, do you hear what I just said? No more than 7%, not 30%, not 25%. That is what we should be doing. We have so much work to do with childcare. I know the presiding President understands that. We got to build new facilities for kids, because once we open the door for affordable childcare the truth is, we don’t have enough space to accommodate the children. We have got to start paying childcare workers the wages they are due for the enormously important work they are providing.
Bernie Sanders: (16:54)
We got childcare workers in America today making less than McDonald’s workers. What an insult. How wrong is that? So this legislation is going to provide increased subsidies for working families to afford childcare. We’re going to pay workers in childcare living wages and benefits. We’re going to build the new facilities that we need to accommodate the families who will now have the opportunity to take advantage of childcare.
Bernie Sanders: (17:25)
But in terms of our children, who we have ignored for so, so long, we’re going to do even more than that. We are going to make pre-K education for three and four-year-olds free. God didn’t create an education system that begins in kindergarten, it was created by human beings and the world has changed. What we have got to understand now is so many of our parents working that we have got to make pre-K education for three and four-year-olds free. That’s what we do in this legislation. By the way, not widely reported, but when we revolutionize childcare and pre-K, so that moms and dads know that their kids are in quality and affordable facilities, we’re going to see more than a million women able to go into the workforce, because they no longer have to stay home to take care of the kids. They want to work, and we will give them the opportunity to pursue their careers.
Bernie Sanders: (18:44)
Madam President, you know and I know that there is something a little bit absurd that the United States of America is literally one of two nations in the entire world, and I’m talking about poor nations, that does not guarantee paid family and medical leave. What does that mean? What it means that there are workers today who are at work when they’re sick, maybe they’re spreading the virus or some other illness. There are working families that have to make a choice. Does mom go to work and leave her sick child at home alone? Or does she stay at home and maybe lose her job? I have talked and I’m sure the presiding President has spoken to women who gave birth to a baby and a week later, a week later, were forced to go back to work, because they had no income coming in.
Bernie Sanders: (19:55)
I know this may shock some of my Republican colleagues, but there are countries all over this world who understand that it is enormously important that parents be able to bond with their babies. In countries around the world, women get four months, five months, eight months off with full pay, or with a significant part of their paycheck in order to stay home with their newborn babies. So finally, finally, we are beginning, beginning, more to do, beginning to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave.
Bernie Sanders: (20:52)
Madam President, I know you have been involved in this issue. I have and a number of our colleagues have, in the understanding that in the contemporary global economy, if our young people are going to go out and get decent paying jobs, shock of all shocks, they actually need to have the skills and the education in order to perform those jobs. So you have a situation now where there are jobs all over this country that are lying vacant, not being taken, because people don’t have the skills. Now, I personally believe we should do what other countries are doing. We should make all public colleges and universities tuition-free and should forgive all student debt. That is not in this bill. But what is in this bill is a beginning, a beginning and that says that we will make community colleges in this country tuition-free.
Bernie Sanders: (21:48)
Now, what does that mean? It means a couple of things. It means that if I go to community college, I can learn a skill, whether it is nursing, whether it is construction trades, whatever it may be. I can learn the skills that I need to go out and get a job that pays me a living wage. That is enormously important, because especially as we rebuild this country, as we begin to pay attention to health care, and to childcare and to taking care of our parents and the disabled people, we need skilled workers. Making community colleges tuition-free for two years is an important step forward in allowing people to gain those skills.
Bernie Sanders: (22:40)
But also for those people that want to go to a four-year college, those two years of community college credits are transferable. So your tuition is paid for the first two years. My hope is that we will soon be able to pay for the next two years as well. But this is a real start in allowing millions of young people to get an education today that previously they could not afford.
Bernie Sanders: (23:10)
Madam President, two blocks away from where we are in the Nation’s Capital, there is an encampment of homeless people. All over this city, you can’t drive down the Nation’s Capitol and not see people sleeping on the street. That is true in virtually every major city in America. Once again, richest country in the history of the world and some 600,000 Americans all homeless. Then on top of that, you’ve got about 18 million households where people are spending 50% or more of their limited incomes to put a roof over their heads. Now, how do you survive economically, if you’re spending 50% of your income-
Bernie Sanders: (24:02)
If you’re spending 50% of your income on housing, this legislation will create a huge number of good paying jobs by the largest investment in American history in low income and affordable housing. I see the chairman of the Banking Committee here, and I want to thank Senator Brown for his important work in that area. Just a few days ago, I had a chat with a gentleman whose wife is seriously ill. He works and he pays for the home health care that she needs. And it’s an expensive proposition. What we understand is that in an aging society, and at a time when we have so many people with disabilities whose needs are not being met, that it makes eminent sense to bring skilled home health care workers into the home, rather than to force people to go into a nursing home, which, by the way, is more expensive. This legislation, reconciliation bill, that we will soon be working on, will make historic investments in home health care and make sure that those workers, like childcare workers who do such important work, are adequately compensated.
Bernie Sanders: (25:37)
Madam President, IPCC today reported what all of us know, and that is if we do not begin in an extremely aggressive way, transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel, the planet that we will be leaving our children will be increasingly unhealthy. It really does take your breath away to look at those photos, whether it’s Oregon, whether it’s California, whether it’s Greece, right now, and see flames consuming entire communities. And if anybody out there thinks that, “Gee, isn’t this too bad that it’s happening this year?” You got it wrong.
Bernie Sanders: (26:22)
It’s only going to get worse if we do not act and act boldly, which is why this legislation will pour hundreds of billions of dollars in the fight to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, including a Civilian Climate Corps, which will give the young people, this country, the opportunity to roll up their sleeves, get decent pay, get educational benefits, in order to do what is so much in their hearts, and that is the combat climate change.
Bernie Sanders: (27:02)
Madam President, I wish that I could tell you that my Republican colleagues understand the crises facing working families and that they understand the moral imperative of us having to address climate change and that we are working together to do, in fact, what the American people want. Create millions of good paying jobs, addressing the needs of working families, and climate change. I wish I could tell you that, but I can’t.
Bernie Sanders: (27:37)
As we go forward, in all likelihood, we will not get one Republican vote. We’re going to have to do it on our own with 50 democratic votes here in the Senate, plus the Vice President of the United States. Now, some of my Republican friends will say, “Well, that’s such a bad idea. Why aren’t you more bi-partisan in terms of reconciliation?”
Bernie Sanders: (28:01)
Well, I would remind my Republican colleagues that they didn’t have a problem with reconciliation when they gave almost $2 trillion in tax breaks to the very richest people in this country and the largest corporations. No problem doing that. They didn’t have a problem with reconciliation when they try to throw 30 million people off of the health care they had by abolishing the Affordable Care Act.
Bernie Sanders: (28:32)
So, that’s where we are. We are facing a crisis facing working families. We need to create millions of good paying jobs. We need to tackle the existential threat of climate change. We need to expand health care and Medicare so that elderly people have dental care, eye glasses, and hearing aids. We need to lower the cost of prescription drugs and have Medicare negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry. We need to make sure that we get doctors and nurses and dentists into underserved areas.
Bernie Sanders: (29:14)
So Madam President, tomorrow begins one of the very important debates that we have ever had, and the question is not complicated. Do we have the courage to stand up to powerful, special interest and tell the corporate world and the 1%, “Yeah, you are finally going to have to pay your fair share of taxes so that we can create millions of good paying jobs for working families so we can protect our children, protect the elderly, and address the threat of climate change.” That is the issue, and I have absolute confidence that we will in fact, rise the occasion and do what the American people want and that we will pass the budget resolution tomorrow. And with that, Madam President, I yield the-