Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) had a stern response to President Trump’s Oval Office address Tuesday night, following the official Democratic response.

In the 12-minute speech, which was viewed live online by approximately 30,000 people despite not being carried by major media networks, Sanders spoke about the urgency hundreds of thousands of federal workers are feeling in the midst of the ongoing government shutdown.

He also placed blame for the shutdown squarely at the feet of both Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who could allow a vote on a bill to end the government shutdown in his position as majority leader. Sen. McConnell’s culpability in prolonging the shutdown was noticeably absent from the official Democratic response from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).

“On January 3, 2019, on their first day in the majority, the Democrats in the House passed legislation to reopen the government. This was exactly the same bill unanimously passed by the Senate,” Sanders said. “Tonight, I urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow that bill to come to the floor for a vote.”

“This is the same bill that Mr. McConnell supported when it was unanimously passed in the Senate,” he added. “Senator McConnell, let’s vote to end this shutdown in a bipartisan way.”

Sanders began his response to the Oval Office address by sharing a story from a single mother and federal employee who has just $100 to her name and won’t be able to make her car payment this month. She also was unable to get a second job to pay bills, because she still had to report to her unpaid federal job despite the shutdown.

“Our federal employees deserve to be treated with respect, not held hostage as political pawns,” Sen. Sanders said.

“If this government shutdown continues — and Trump has indicated that he is prepared to continue the shutdown for months, if not years — millions of Americans, including the disabled, the children, and the elderly, may not be able to get the food stamps they need to eat,” he continued. “Pregnant mothers and their babies may go without the nutrition assistance they need to stay healthy, as the WIC program is on the verge of running out of money.”

Sanders is right — as Grit Post previously reported, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which serves eight million Americans, is directly affected by the government shutdown. The office within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that oversees both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) as well as WIC is without 95 percent of its funding due to the shutdown, meaning millions of Americans who depend on those programs are without that lifeline.

In addition to the shutdown, other crises Sanders described affecting the American working class were the threat of climate catastrophe, the $1.5 trillion in student debt burdening 44 million Americans, and the fact that healthcare is still far too expensive for tens of millions of Americans.

“Mr. President, we don’t need to create artificial crises. We have enough real crises,” Sanders said at the end of his response. “Let us end this shutdown and bring the American people together around an agenda that will improve life for all of our people.”

 

Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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