Bernie Sanders on Government Reform

Democratic primary challenger; Independent VT Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)


Power to the people, not the billionaires

We have to recognize that this country is moving into an oligarchic society where a handful of billionaires control the economic and political life. As president, I am prepared to take them on. Yes, we will raise the minimum wage to a living wage. Yes, we will finally make sure that every American has health care as a human right, not a privilege. And, yes, we will address the catastrophic crisis of climate change and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.
Source: September Democratic Primary debate in Houston , Sep 12, 2019

Keep filibuster and use other ways to pass laws

Q: Senator Warren, What can you get done on gun control?

WARREN: The mass shootings are terrible, but they get all the headlines. We have a gun violence problem. The question is when 90 percent of Americans want to see us do background checks, want to get assault weapons off the streets, why doesn't it happen? The answer is corruption. We have a Congress that is beholden to the gun industry. Unless we're willing to roll back the filibuster, we're not going to get anything done on guns.

Q: Senator Sanders, you've said if Donald Trump supports ending the filibuster, you should be nervous. Would you support ending the filibuster?

SANDERS: No. But what I would support is passing major legislation, the gun legislation, Medicare for all, climate change legislation that saves the planet. I will not wait for 60 votes to make that happen, and you can do it in a variety of ways. You can do that through budget reconciliation law.

Source: September Democratic Primary debate in Houston , Sep 12, 2019

Keep filibuster and use other ways to pass laws

Q: Senator Warren, What can you get done on gun control?

WARREN: The mass shootings are terrible, but they get all the headlines. We have a gun violence problem. The question is when 90 percent of Americans want to see us do background checks, want to get assault weapons off the streets, why doesn't it happen? The answer is corruption. We have a Congress that is beholden to the gun industry. Unless we're willing to roll back the filibuster, we're not going to get anything done on guns.

Q: Senator Sanders, you've said if Donald Trump supports ending the filibuster, you should be nervous. Would you support ending the filibuster?

SANDERS: No. But what I would support is passing major legislation, the gun legislation, Medicare for all, climate change legislation that saves the planet. I will not wait for 60 votes to make that happen, and you can do it in a variety of ways. You can do that through budget reconciliation law.

Source: September Democratic Primary debate in Houston , Sep 12, 2019

We need major filibuster reform, but don't abolish it

Q: You have wavered at times in your stance on eliminating the filibuster.

SANDERS: I have not.

Q: What will you do if bad actors like Senator Mitch McConnell use the filibuster to block climate legislation?

SANDERS: I haven't wavered. What I believe is the Senate should not be the House and we shouldn't simply have a majority body. But what I have said repeatedly is we need major filibuster reform. And second of all, just as Bush got through major tax breaks for the rich through the Budget Reconciliation Act, we can do that, as well. So if your question is, "are we going to need 60 votes to save the planet?", the answer is, no, we will not. There are ways to get that through the Budget Reconciliation Act, which will require 51 votes, and that's the method we will use.

Source: CNN Climate Crisis Town Hall marathon (10 Democrats) , Sep 4, 2019

Hard to defend the Electoral College

Sanders on Electoral College: It should be eliminated. 16 CANDIDATES HAVE SIMILAR VIEWS: Michael Bennet; Cory Booker; Peter Buttigieg; Julian Castro; Tulsi Gabbard; Kirsten Gillibrand; Kamala Harris; Jay Inslee; Amy Klobuchar; Wayne Messam; Seth Moulton; Beto O`Rourke; Tim Ryan; Eric Swalwell; Elizabeth Warren; Marianne Williamson. Twelve Democratic presidential candidates have explicitly called for the abolition of the Electoral College, while five others have said they are open to the idea.

Among those who support repealing it, the remedies vary. Some, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, said they would back a constitutional amendment. Four Democrats said they are open to abolishing the system but didn't explicitly back doin

Source: Politico "2020Dems on the Issues" , Jul 17, 2019

Rotate judges on Supreme Court, like term limits

Sanders's "rotating judges" idea actually makes some sense. At the Democratic debate, the moderators never raised how to handle the Supreme Court's emboldened conservative majority.

They came closest to tackling the issue in an exchange about Roe v. Wade and what the candidates would do to protect abortion rights if it were overturned. Sanders replied by saying he opposed adding additional justices to the bench, a solution several other candidates have proposed. "I do not believe in packing the court," Sanders said. But "I do believe that constitutionally we have the ability to rotate judges to other courts."

At a forum in April, Sanders offered up a similar proposal. "What may make sense is, if not term limits, then rotating judges to the appeals court as well. Letting them get out of the Supreme Court and bringing in new blood." The proposal is constitutionally dubious and might require an amendment, but it's not without merit if it gets rid of corrosive confirmation battles.

Source: The New Republic magazine on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Jun 29, 2019

Mainstream media focuses on gossip, lies, & personality

As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires are now able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars anonymously in ugly TV ads demonizing candidates who dare stand up to them.

The internet and social media now allow for the worldwide transmission of total lies, and the capability of targeting those lies to susceptible populations.

Further, recent studies show what the average American has long known. More and more mainstream media political coverage is devoted to gossip and issues of personality, and less and less to the major problems facing our country and the world. During the last presidential campaign, for example, there was almost no discussion devoted to climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet. There was hardly a mention that in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, 40 million Americans live in poverty, or that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of nearly any major country.

Source: Where We Go From Here, by Bernie Sanders, p.6 , Nov 27, 2018

Wall Street regulates Congress; do it the other way around

Today, the six major financial institutions in this country have almost $10 trillion in assets, equivalent to nearly 60 percent of our entire GDP. They issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards, underwrite more than 35 percent of all mortgages, hold 95 percent of all financial derivatives, and control more than 40 percent of all bank deposits. Meanwhile, their business model is based on fraud. It's time for real Wall Street reform.

Greed, fraud, dishonesty, and arrogance. These are the words that best describe the reality of Wall Street today.

Fortunately, the American people are catching on. They understand that there is something profoundly wrong when a handful of billionaires on Wall Street wield extraordinary power and influence over the political and economic life of our country. They understand that Congress does not regulate Wall Street--it is Wall Street that regulates Congress.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p. 296-297 , Nov 15, 2016

Allow Post Offices to offer banking services

Today, rather unbelievably, there are millions of Americans who live in communities that are not served by regular banking services, places in which the giant banks don't think it's worth their time to invest. Well, what do you do if you live in such a neighborhood and need to cash a check? Where do you go?

You go to a payday lender, who will likely charge an interest rate of over 300 percent and trap you into a vicious cycle of debt.

One important way to provide decent banking opportunities for low-income communities is to allow the U.S. Postal Service to engage in basic banking services, which could include offering savings accounts, cashing checks, and wiring money.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p. 315-7 , Nov 15, 2016

End private prisons; end profit of incarceration

Private corporations should not be making profits off the incarceration of human beings. But that is exactly what is happening today in our country, big-time. According to the ACLU, as part of the movement toward privatization that we are seeking in sector after sector, the number of adult prisoners housed in private prisons has jumped almost 1,600 percent since 1990. Last year, there were about 130,000 federal and state prisoners in private facilities.
Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p. 382 , Nov 15, 2016

Dept. of Defense is only agency never to have been audited

SANDERS: I believe in government, but I believe in efficient government, not wasteful government.

CLINTON: There are a number of programs are redundant and not producing the results that people deserve. There are a lot of training programs and education programs that I think can be streamlined. I would like to take a hard look at every part of the federal government and do the kind of analysis that would rebuild some confidence that we're taking a hard look about what we have and what we don't need anymore.

SANDERS: We have also got to take a look at the waste and inefficiencies in the Department of Defense, which is the one major agency of government that has not been able to be audited. I have the feeling you're going to find a lot of cost overruns there and a lot of waste and duplicative activities.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

Best dairy policy is USDA board's supply management

The best policy is to develop a system of supply management. It is my hope that we in Washington can produce legislation that will give farmers tools to slow the growth of their herds when milk prices are high--yes, there are profits to be made in the short term, but the slightly longer term result is always an oversupply of milk and milk prices that go into free-fall. Supply management curbs excessive growth of dairy herds when prices are high. And when the prices are low, a modest cushion for farmers can provide protection against a hard landing. Under legislation I proposed, the USDA, working with dairy farmers on a producer board, would set a rate for how much farmers could boost production according to US demand. I think it makes sense that, if we can manage supply so that it is never too high or too low, huge price swings should disappear. And our family farmers will live with a security--that hard work and good farming will bring reasonable returns--that eludes them today.
Source: Sanders Intro to `Milk Money`, by K. Kardashian, p. viii-ix , Oct 9, 2012

Introduced Federal Reserve Transparency Act with Ron Paul

When Fed Chair Ben Bernanke refuses to give us information about the trillions of dollars of credit that he recently passed out in the bailout process because that would be "counterproductive," he is really saying, "It's none of your business."

He may well be protected by the law, but he is in defiance of the Constitution. The courts, under today's circumstances, will never rule that the Federal Reserve Bank chairman must reveal the information that the Congress or the people seek.

One thing I have noticed in studying the issue is that the more power the Fed has gained, the greater the secrecy they demand. Transparency is currently a hot issue in Congress because the people have awoken and have sent a message. This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it's not a Republican or Democratic issue. It is pervasive, across the political spectrum.

I introduced a Federal Reserve audit bill the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, HR 1207, which Bernie Sanders introduced in the Senate.

Source: End the Fed, by Rep. Ron Paul, p.174-175 , Sep 29, 2010

Competitive bidding saves government money

During the first term, I discovered that the city was wasting substantial sums of money on its insurance policies. Local companies, year after year, were getting the city's business at substantially higher than market rates. I instituted a radical socialist concept, "competitive" bidding, which saved the city tens of thousands of dollars. We were showing that to be "radical" did not mean that we wasted taxpayer dollars. Quite the contrary. For those of us committed to the idea that government should play an important role in the life of our community, it was absolutely necessary to show that we could run a tightfisted, cost-effective administration. There is no excuse for wasting taxpayer money.
Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 59 , Jun 17, 1997

Bernie Sanders on Campaign Finance Reform

Wealthy donors turn their backs on working families

Sanders said of his views of the current state of the country, "Our priorities are determined by the 1 percent and by wealthy campaign contributors. Our priorities are determined by those who want to see the rich get richer and are turning their backs on the working families of this country."

Sanders then touted his campaign platforms: "And what is unique about our campaign is we say unashamedly we are raising our campaign contributions not from billionaires but from working-class people, that our campaign is about the working families of this country for the working class of this country. And that is the administration that we will run. It is time to take on the big money interest. It is time to change our national priorities."

Source: Washington Post excerpts of 8th Democrat 2020 primary debate , Feb 8, 2020

Citizens United is most disastrous decisions in history

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is backing an amendment to "abolish the Electoral College" introduced by Senator Brian Schatz, while Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders have signaled their willingness to address the Electoral College's anti-democratic impact, as have former representative Beto O'Rourke and former housing secretary Juli n Castro. Possible presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, says: "The Electoral College needs to go, because it's made our society less and less democratic." Buttigieg sees that move as part of a democracy agenda that includes ending gerrymandering, extending voting rights, and, probably, amending the Constitution to reverse the damage done by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision. (Sanders has already proposed amendments to overturn Citizens United, which he decries as "one of the most disastrous decisions in [the Court's] history.")
Source: The Nation, "Electoral College," on 2020 Democratic primary , Apr 22, 2019

Require disclosure of campaign expenditures over $10,000

In 2016, Sanders refused corporate donations and relied on small donors to fund his White House campaign. He has proposed a constitutional amendment that would effectively reverse the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling and ban corporations and nonprofits from unlimited campaign expenditures. The independent senator would also require any organization to disclose election-related campaign expenditures of $10,000 or more.
Source: PBS News hour on 2020 Presidential hopefuls , Feb 19, 2019

SuperPACs: manifestation of everything wrong with politics

Raising money is the ugliest part of modern American politics, and I personally hate to do it. As a result of Citizens United, a bad fund-raising process became much worse. Nowadays, a serious run for the presidency requires somewhere around $1 billion. As I've said many times, I'm going to do everything I can to bring about real campaign finance reform, overturn Citizens Untied, and move to public funding of elections. But that wasn't going to happen in this campaign.

As we contemplated the run for president, several things became clear in terms of fund-raising. First, I was not going to do what every other presidential candidate was doing, and that was to establish a super PAC. Super PACs, which allow for unlimited contributions from wealthy people, are the exact manifestation of everything that is wrong with politics today. The idea of establishing one was tempting, and easy to do, but I wasn't going to do it.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p.113-4 , Nov 15, 2016

It's oligarchy when billionaires buy elections

I'm running for president because given the crises facing our country, it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. Together we're going to have to overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

Billionaires and Wall Street should not be buying elections. We've got to end this rigged economy where people are working longer hours for low wages, almost all new income and wealth going to the top 1 percent, and of course, we need comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship.

We know that we have got to combat climate change, transform our energy system, and leave this planet in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and our grandchildren.

Is it acceptable that Wall Street and billionaires are spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy elections? Is that democracy or this that oligarchy? Which is why I believe we've got to overturn Citizens United and move to public funding of elections.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic primary debate in Miami , Mar 9, 2016

Campaign financing is corrupt; no Super PAC for me

Q: Nearly half of your financial sector donations appear to come from just two wealthy financiers, for a total of about $10 million.

CLINTON: You're referring to a Super PAC that we don't coordinate with, that has decided that they want to support me. They are the ones who should respond to questions. Let's talk about our campaigns. I'm very proud of the fact that we have more than 750 thousand donors. But, the real issue, I think, that the Senator is injecting into this is that if you take donations from Wall Street, you can't be independent.

SANDERS: What we are talking about is a corrupt campaign finance system. It is undermining American democracy. We had a decision to make early on, do we do a Super PAC? We said no. Secretary Clinton's Super PAC received $25 million dollars last reporting period, $15 million dollars from Wall Street. Our average contribution is $27 dollars.

Source: 2016 PBS Democratic debate in Wisconsin , Feb 11, 2016

Establishment candidates are beholden to big money

SANDERS: Secretary Clinton has the support of far more governors, mayors, members of the House. She has the entire establishment behind her.

CLINTON: I'm grateful to have the support of many elected officials. I think it's because they've worked with me. They want me as their partner in the White House.

SANDERS: I am proud that we have over a million people who have contributed to our campaign. That our campaign is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Secretary Clinton does represent the establishment. I represent ordinary Americans. What being part of the establishment is, is, in the last quarter, having a super PAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street, that throughout one's life raised lot of money from the drug companies and other special interests. If we do not get a handle on money in politics and the degree to which big money controls the political process in this country, nobody is going to bring about the changes that is needed for the middle class and working families.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Congress represents the wealthy; they donate to ensure that

CLINTON: Sen. Sanders [hints that] anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought. You will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation.

SANDERS: Let's talk about why, in the 1990s, Wall Street got deregulated. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Wall Street spent billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions? Let's ask why it is that we pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Let's talk about climate change. Do you think there's a reason why not one Republican has the guts to recognize that climate change is real? Do you think it has anything to do with the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil pouring huge amounts of money into the political system? There is a reason these people are putting huge amounts of money into our political system. And it is undermining American democracy and it is allowing Congress to represent wealthy campaign contributors and not working families.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Litmus test for Supreme Court on Citizens United

You are not going to accomplish what has to be done for working families and the middle class unless there is campaign finance reform. So long as big money interests control the United States Congress, it is gonna be very hard to do what has to be done for working families. So let me be very clear. No nominee of mine, if I'm elected president, to the United States Supreme Court will get that nomination unless he or she is loud and clear, and says they will vote to overturn Citizens United.
Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Overturn Citizens United: America is one person, one vote

Almost all new income is going to the top 1 percent. Then sustaining that rigged economy is a corrupt campaign finance system undermining democracy, where billionaires can contribute unlimited sums of money into super PACs and into candidates. Our job is to create an economy that works for all and overturn Citizens United. One person, one vote. That's American democracy.
Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Presidency isn't winnable with public financing

Q: Why aren't you participating in the public financing system which is designed to keep big money out of presidential politics?

SANDERS: I believe in public funding of elections. But this system is currently antiquated and nobody can become president on that system. Should we do a Super PAC, but I concluded that I don't represent billionaires. The alternative was to ask working families and the middle class to help in a transformational campaign. We got 3.5 million individual contributions.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Citizens United means billionaires donate for THEIR interest

As a result of this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our campaign finance system is corrupt and is undermining American democracy. Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process in order to fund super PACs and to elect candidates who represent their interests, not the interests of working people.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Super-PACs pervert the democratic process

Q: The Koch brothers were big fans of Scott Walker's. He had a lot of money in his super PAC. And yet he disappeared from the presidential race. Is that a rebuttal to your argument that big money just totally calls the tune in politics?

SANDERS: I wish it were. But, I don't think the Koch brothers learned that lesson. I think the power of money over the political process is horrendous. I think that super PACs are playing a destructive role in our political system. And I will do, if president, everything that I can to see that this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision is overturned. American democracy is not about billionaires buying elections or trying to buy elections.

Source: CBS Face the Nation 2015 interview by Bob Schieffer , Sep 27, 2015

Public funding of elections to promote even playing field

The US, in theory, is a democratic republic, where the voices of the many are represented by those whom we elect to political office. But our government no longer represents most of us. Bernie says, "We need people who are ready to take on the handful of billionaires holding the power, to tell them, 'Enough is enough. This country belongs to us. This government belongs to us.' " Here's how we do it:
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

We now have government of, by, and for the billionaires

Senator Bernie Sanders demands that the United States' elected government represent us, its people. He observes a disturbing trend where the average citizen is disenfranchised, and fears that we are losing what makes America great--our system of democracy. Bernie has said: "We are moving rapidly away from our democratic heritage into an oligarchic form of society where today we are experiencing a government of the billionaires, by the billionaires, and for the billionaires."
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Constitutional amendment to reverse Citizen United ruling

On Campaign finance: Limit corporate and interest-group spending in campaigns.

Sanders proposes a Constitutional amendment that would effectively reverse the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling and ban corporations and nonprofits from unlimited campaign expenditures. The independent senator would also require disclosure of any organizations spending $10,000 or more on an election-related campaign.

Source: PBS News Hour "2016 Candidate Stands" series , Apr 30, 2015

Citizens United opens up the road to oligarchy

Q: Let me ask you on the billionaire front--

SANDERS: The Koch brothers and the other billionaires are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That is not a way you bring about change. We've got to mobilize the American people.

Q: If a billionaire agrees with you on issues are you okay with them participating in the process?

SANDERS: I think Citizens United will go down in history as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever. I think it is opening up the road to oligarchy, where the billionaires, like the Koch brothers--

Q: Left or right?

SANDERS: Left or right, but it's mostly right. It will always be. The Koch brothers are going to spend $400 million. Do you know what their agenda is? They want to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. More tax breaks for the rich and large corporations. Nobody in America wants that except the billionaire class. This is a real danger to American democracy.

Source: Meet the Press 2014 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Sep 14, 2014

America struggles between organized people & organized money

Today, America is locked in a bitter struggle between organized people and organized money. The very simple political reality is that those of us is Congress who are prepared to stand up to organized money will not be successful without the strong support of millions of Americans at the grassroots level. Equally true is the reality that he average American citizen--disgusted with tax breaks or billionaires, Wall Street greed, a never-ending recession attacks on Social Security, two wars and minimal efforts against global warming--will not see his or her views translated into legislation without the support of organized people. Without the support of organized people, we progressives in Congress are no match for organized money.
Source: Sanders Introduction to `Playing Bigger`, by S. Acuff, p. 1 , Nov 8, 2012

Rich people use wealth to elect people to make them richer

The rich get richer, and they don't sit on this money. What they then do is use it to elect people who support them and to unelect people who oppose their agenda and they use their political power to get legislation passed which makes the wealthy even wealthier.

The wealthy contribute huge sums of money into campaigns. The wealthy have all kinds of lobbyists around here through corporate America. What they are going to get out of this [Obama-Republican] agreement are huge tax breaks that benefit themselves. That is not what we should be supporting.

We should understand this agreement is just the beginning of an assault on legislation and programs that have benefited the American people for 70 or 80 years. Mark my words, there will be an intensive effort to privatize Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Furthermore, it is part of the Republican agenda. They want to expand--and it is not only Republicans here, some Democrats as well--our disastrous trade policies.

Source: The Speech: A Historic Filibuster, by Bernie Sanders , Dec 10, 2010

Receives more contributions, but fewer dollars, than GOP

As the only Independent in Congress, I face unique fundraising handicaps which my campaign works very hard to overcome. Unlike Democrats and Republicans, I do not receive any funds from a political party. I do not benefit from the coordinated campaigns that Democrats and Republicans utilize. My campaign does not get support from a party organization which provides staff, polling, literature, offices, mailings, voter checklists, and other services.

Most importantly, the vast majority of my contributors do not have a lot of money and are unable to give large amounts. In campaign after campaign, I receive MORE individual contributions from Vermont than my opponents, but FEWER total dollars. Our average campaign contribution is less than $35. My Republican opponent will always have a much higher average contribution.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 73-5 , Jun 17, 1997

Accepts PAC money, but not from special interests

As a Progressive, I have adamantly refused financial support from Big Money interests. Throughout my political career, I have never accepted one penny from a corporate PAC. (Of the Banking Committee's 52 members, only 2, including myself, receive no PAC funds from interests associated with the corporate financial community.)

While I will not accept PAC money from corporate America, I gladly accept PAC contributions from organizations fighting to improve life for ordinary people. Over the years, my campaigns have received strong financial support from PACs associated with organized labor, the environment, women, senior citizens, human rights, and the needs of children. My opponents call me a "hypocrite" for accepting PAC money. How can I accept PAC money, they say, and then claim that I am fighting against "special interests"? Isn't a PAC, by definition, a "special interest"? [It does] make a difference who the PAC represents--the problem is NOT that ordinary people have too much influence.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 74-5 , Jun 17, 1997

Publicly fund elections, or small individual contributions

This whole campaign fundraising situation stinks to high heaven. In the past, I have fought hard for campaign finance reform which limits the amount of money that can be spent in an election and which emphasizes public funding of elections and small individual contributions. Ordinary Americans should have a chance to win elections, not just the rich or representatives thereof. If reelected, I will accelerate my efforts in this area.
Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 73 , Jun 17, 1997

Bernie Sanders on Right to Vote

Enforce simple rule: every over 18 has the right to vote

People understand that the political system is corrupt. It is not just voter suppression, which cost the Democratic Party a governorship in this state, not just denying people of color the right to vote, we also have a system through Citizens United which allows billionaires to buy elections. What we need to do, simple and straightforward, in every state in this country through the federal government, if you are 18, you have a right to vote,. We need to move toward public funding of elections.
Source: November Democratic primary debate in Atlanta , Nov 20, 2019

Mandate paper ballots

Sanders on Election Security: Mandate paper ballots.

11 CANDIDATES HAVE SIMILAR VIEWS: Michael Bennet; Cory Booker; Julian Castro; Tulsi Gabbard; Kirsten Gillibrand; Kamala Harris; Amy Klobuchar; Beto O`Rourke; Tim Ryan; Eric Swalwell; Elizabeth Warren.

Election security experts overwhelmingly consider paper ballots the most secure form of voting. That mandate is part of the Protecting American Votes and Elections Act, which would also require post-election risk-limiting audits.

Source: Politico "2020Dems on the Issues" , Jul 17, 2019

End voter suppression; make it easier to vote

When we are in the White House, we are going to end the disgusting Republican efforts to suppress the vote. If you are 18 in this country, you have the right to vote. End of discussion. We are going to make it easier for people to vote, not harder.
Source: Speech transcript from National Action Network Convention , Apr 5, 2019

Sovereign rights & voting rights for Native Americans

Native Americans are the first Americans, yet they have for far too long been treated as third class citizens. It is unconscionable that today, in 2016, Native Americans still do not always have the right to decide on important issues that affect their communities. The US must not just honor Native American treaty rights and tribal sovereignty, it must also move away from a relationship of paternalism and control and toward one of deference and support.

Time and time again, our Native American brothers and sisters have seen the federal government break solemn promises, and huge corporations put profits ahead of the sovereign rights of Native communities. Bernie will stand with Native Americans in the struggle to protect their treaty rights, advance traditional ways of life, and improve the quality of life for Native communities.

Bernie will stand with Native Americans to fight for Indian voting rights, just as he will defend the franchise in minority communities across the country.

Source: 2018 Vermont Senate campaign website BernieSanders.com , Nov 1, 2018

Unity Reform Commission: reduce power of superdelegates

During the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, it became clear to me that the elitist, top-down approach of the party needed to be reformed.

The Democratic National Committee had designated 716 political insiders as superdelegates--delegates to the national convention who could support any candidate they wanted, regardless of how the people of their state had voted in their primaries or caucuses.

In other words, the Democratic leadership had created the absurd and undemocratic situation that allowed 30 percent of the votes needed for the presidential nomination to come from the party elite. In 2016, this grossly unfair situation became very apparent when Secretary Clinton received the support of some 500 superdelegates BEFORE the first popular vote was cast in the Iowa caucuses.

[The Unity Reform Commission] in December 2017 unanimously passed a resolution that would significantly reduce the power of superdelegates.

Source: Where We Go From Here, by B. Sanders, p.248-50, on 2016 DNC , Aug 25, 2018

Russian cyber-attacks threaten integrity of US elections

Q: Trump has invited Vladimir Putin to the White House.

SANDERS: It makes me think that either Trump doesn't understand what Russia has done--not only to our elections, but through cyber-attacks against all parts of our infrastructure--or perhaps he is being blackmailed by Russia, because they may have compromising information about him. Or maybe he admires the kind of government that Putin is running in Russia. We have got to make sure that Russia does not interfere, not only in our elections, but in other aspects of our lives.

Q: How do you protect yourselves in the next race against something like that happening?

SANDERS: We need a president who is going to do everything to work with statewide officials all over this country to make sure that, when people cast a vote, that vote is going to count. Congress has allocated money to strengthen the protection of our electoral system. The president has got to be aggressive in implementing that. The integrity of American democracy is at stake.

Source: CBS Face the Nation 2018 interviews of 2020 hopefuls , Jul 22, 2018

Ruling class wants a lack of political consciousness

In 2015 I traveled to South Carolina. In Columbia, we met with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Out of five hundred workers, most of whom were black, only a handful were registered to vote.

A young black man informed me that, to him and his friends, politics was totally irrelevant to their lives. It was not something they cared about or even talked about.

Frankly, this lack of political consciousness is exactly what the ruling class of this country wants. Meanwhile, people who work for low wages, have no health insurance, and live in inadequate housing don't see a connection between the reality of their lives and what government does or does not do. Showing people that connection is a very big part of what a progressive political movement has to do. How can we bring about real social change in this country if people in need are not involved in the political process? We need a political revolution. We need to get people involved. We need to get people voting.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p. 66 , Nov 15, 2016

Participation in politics as easy and convenient as possible

Democracy should be easy. It should be ingrained in the soul of every American. Getting involved, being active in the political process, knowing that your voice matters in life.

Democracy is the right of a free people to control their destiny. Not kings or queens or czars, but ordinary people who come together in a peaceful manner in order to determine the future of their society.

What, in our day, does democracy mean? To my mind, it should mean one person, one vote. It should mean an equal opportunity for all who wish to seek public office. It should mean that the wealthy don't have undue influence over the election process. It should mean that voting and participating in the political process is as easy and convenient as possible, and that barriers are not erected to prevent groups of citizens from exercising their right to participate. It should mean that poor people, old people, young people, and people of color are not discriminated against when they want to vote.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p.185-6 , Nov 15, 2016

Automatic voter registration at age 18

We need to encourage voter registration, not make it a burden for voters. We should join other countries in making certain that every person is automatically registered to vote when he/she turns eighteen. Every person who moves to a new state should be automatically registered to vote as soon as he/she has a new postal address. The burden of registering voters should be on the state, not the individual voter.

We should make Election Day a federal holiday, or spread Election Day over a two-day weekend, to increase voters' ability to participate. Too many people don't vote because they simply don't have the time on the appointed day--and yes, some forget. Neither situation should disqualify them from casting a ballot. We must make early voting an option for all voters who need the flexibility. And we must make absentee ballot an option for all Americans who request them--with no tests or conditions that unnecessarily hinder voters from requesting and receiving those ballots.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p.196 , Nov 15, 2016

Automatic voter registration; holiday for Election Day

[At the 2016 convention preparation], we were victorious in including amendments in the platform that made it the policy of the Democratic Party to fight for:
Source: Where We Go From Here, by B. Sanders, p.16-7, on 2016 DNC , Jul 9, 2016

GOP loves voter suppression because it lets them win

Here's why I think I will be, if nominated, the strongest candidate. Democrats win when there is a large voter turnout; when people are excited. Republicans win when people are demoralized and you have a small voter turnout, which by the way is why they love voter suppression. I believe that our campaign has shown we can create enthusiasm from working people, from young people, which will drive us to a large voter turnout.
Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Reinforce voting rights to end voter suppression

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Underclass see the political deck stacked; and don't vote

If you ask me now what one of the major accomplishments of my political life is, it is that I helped double the voter turnout in Burlington. I did that because people who had given up on the political process understood that I was fighting for working families, that we were paying attention to low and moderate-income neighborhoods rather than just the big-money interests. I went to war with virtually every part of the ruling class in Burlington. People understood that; they said, "You know what? Bernie is standing with us. We're going to stand with him." The result is that large numbers of people who previously had not participated in the political process got involved. And that's what we have to do for the whole country.

One of the great tragedies that we face today politically is that most people have given up on the political process. They understand the political deck is stacked against them. They think there is no particular reason for them to come out and vote--and they don't.

Source: The Nation 2014 interview of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Mar 6, 2014

Low-income workers don't vote because it's irrelevant

Today, most low-income workers do not vote, and many have very little understanding of the relationship of politics to their lives. The average American worker has come to accept that he or she has no power on the job. The company is moving the plant to Mexico. How can I stop it? The CEO earns 173 times more than the average worker. Who am I to contest management prerogatives? Corporations are asking for give-back in health care, despite record profits. What authority do I have to challenge big capital? In our "democracy," the vast majority of working people feel helpless-- ARE helpless given the current political structure--to protect their economic interests or chart their future.

Why bother to vote? And millions don't.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 26 , Jun 17, 1997

Bernie Sanders on Voting Record

Same-day automatic voter registration & 3-day voting

Revitalizing the electoral process is, in some ways, a simple matter. If the goal is to get more people to vote--and that certainly should be one of our goals--then it is high time we establish automatic voter registration for every American who is 18 or older. Given the growth of technology through the "information highway," a social security card or driver's license should be all that is required for voting. Same-day registration, allowing every American to register up until election day, would substantially increase voter turnout.

Similarly, we must make it more convenient for people to vote. We can open the polls, as is done in other nations, over a 2- or 3-day period--including at least one weekend day-- so that working Americans will have more time to vote. Oregon has shown us another possible route: in that state, voting can be done by mail over a period of up to 4 weeks, and as a consequence voter turnout has risen.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p.226-7 , Jun 17, 1997

Voted YES on Congressional pay raise.

Congressional Summary:
    Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:
  1. expense allowances;
  2. representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
  3. salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
  4. agency contributions for employee benefits;
  5. inquiries and investigations;
  6. the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
  7. the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
  8. miscellaneous items;
  9. the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
  10. official mail costs.
Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.

Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act; Bill HR2918&S1294 ; vote number 2009-S217 on Jul 6, 2009

Voted YES on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?

Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S.160 ; vote number 2009-S073 on Feb 26, 2009

Voted YES on granting the District of Columbia a seat in Congress.

Cloture vote on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act:[Washington DC currently has a "delegate" to the US House, whose vote does not count. Utah had complained that the 2000 census did not count many Utahns on Mormon missions abroad].

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. BYRD: In 1978, I voted for H.J. Res. 554, that proposed amending the Constitution to provide for representation of D.C. [That amendment passed the Senate but was not ratified by the States]. While I recognize that others believe that the Constitution authorizes the Congress to "exercise exclusive legislation" over D.C., the historical intent of the Founders on this point is unclear. I oppose S.1257, because I doubt that our Nation's Founding Fathers ever intended that the Congress should be able to change the text of the Constitution by passing a simple bill.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HATCH. There are conservative and liberal advocates on both sides of this issue,and think most people know Utah was not treated fairly after the last census. For those who are so sure this is unconstitutional, [we include an] expedited provision that will get us to the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision. It will never pass as a constitutional amendment. There are 600,000 people in D.C., never contemplated by the Founders of this country to be without the right to vote. They are the only people in this country who do not have a right to vote for their own representative in the House. This bill would remedy that situation.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S. 1257 ; vote number 2007-339 on Sep 18, 2007

Voted NO on requiring photo ID to vote in federal elections.

Vote on Dole Amdt. S.2350, amending SP2350 (via the College Cost Reduction Act): To amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require individuals voting in person to present photo identification.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. DOLE. I am proposing a commonsense measure to uphold the integrity of Federal elections. My amendment to require voters to show photo identification at the polls would go a long way in minimizing potential for voter fraud. When a fraudulent vote is cast and counted, the vote of a legitimate voter is cancelled. This is wrong, and my amendment would help ensure that one of the hallmarks of our democracy, our free and fair elections, is protected. Opinion polls repeatedly confirm that Americans overwhelmingly support this initiative.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. FEINSTEIN. If one would want to suppress the vote in the 2008 election, one would vote for this because this measure goes into effect January 1, 2008. It provides that everybody who votes essentially would have to have a photo ID. If you want to suppress the minority vote, the elderly vote, the poor vote, this is exactly the way to do it. Many of these people do not have driver's licenses. This amendment would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to actually carry out. It goes into effect--surprise--January 1, 2008 [to affect the presidential election]. I urge a "no" vote.

Reference: Dole Amendment to the Help America Vote Act; Bill S.2350, amending SP2350 ; vote number 2007-269 on Jul 19, 2007

Voted NO on requiring photo ID for voting in federal elections.

Requires that to vote in federal elections, an individual present a government-issued, current, and valid photo identification. After 2010, that ID must require providing proof of US citizenship as a condition for issuance. An individual who does not present such an ID is permitted to cast a provisional ballot, and then present the required ID within 48 hours. Exempts from this requirement the absentee ballot of any eligible overseas military voter on active duty overseas.

Proponents support voting YES because:

The election system is the bedrock that our Republic is built on and its security and oversight is of paramount concern. Only US citizens have the right to vote in Federal elections, but our current system does not give State election officials the tools they need to ensure that this requirement is being met.

This bill is designed to increase participation by ensuring that each legitimate vote will be counted and not be diluted by fraud. There are many elections in this country every cycle that are decided by just a handful of votes. How can we be certain that these elections, without measures to certify the identity of voters, are not being decided by fraudulent votes?

Opponents support voting NO because:

There is something we can all agree on: only Americans get to vote, and they only get to vote once. But what we are talking about in this bill is disenfranchising many of those Americans. It is already a felony for a non-American to vote. We had hearings and what we found out was that the issue of illegal aliens voting basically does not occur.

The impact of this will disproportionately affect poor people and African Americans, because many are too poor to have a car and they do not have a license. We have no evidence there is a problem. We have ample evidence that this will disenfranchise many Americans. This is the measure to disenfranchise African Americans, Native Americans. It is wrong and we will not stand for it.

Reference: Federal Election Integrity Act; Bill H R 4844 ; vote number 2006-459 on Sep 20, 2006

Voted NO on restricting independent grassroots political committees.

A "527 organization" is a political committee which spends money raised independently of any candidate's campaign committee, in support or opposition of a candidate or in support or opposition of an issue. Well-known examples include MoveOn.org (anti-Bush) and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (anti-Kerry). Voting YES would regulate 527s as normal political committees, which would greatly restrict their funding, and hence would shift power to candidate committees and party committees. The bill's opponents say:
  • This legislation singles out 527 organizations in an effort to undermine their fundraising and is a direct assault on free speech.
  • This bill would obstruct the efforts of grassroots organizations while doing nothing to address the culture of corruption in Congress.
  • H.R. 513 is an unbalanced measure that favors corporate trade associations over independent advocates. Corporate interests could continue spending unlimited and undisclosed dollars for political purposes while independent organizations would be subject to contribution limits and source restrictions.
  • H.R. 513 also removes all limits on national and state party spending for Congressional candidates in primary or general elections--an unmasked attack on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and clear evidence that the true intention in advancing H.R. 513 is not reform, but partisan advantage in political fundraising.
    Reference: Federal Election Campaign Act amendment "527 Reform Act"; Bill H.R.513 ; vote number 2006-088 on Apr 5, 2006

    Voted NO on prohibiting lawsuits about obesity against food providers.

    The Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act ("The Cheesburger Bill") would prevent civil liability actions against food manufacturers, marketers, distributors, advertisers, sellers, and trade associations for claims relating to a person's weight gain, obesity, or any health condition associated with weight gain or obesity. A YES vote would:
    Reference: The Cheesburger Bill; Bill HR 554 ; vote number 2005-533 on Oct 19, 2005

    Voted NO on limiting attorney's fees in class action lawsuits.

    Class Action Fairness Act of 2005: Amends the Federal judicial code to specify the calculation of contingent and other attorney's fees in proposed class action settlements that provide for the award of coupons to class members. Allows class members to refuse compliance with settlement agreements or consent decrees absent notice. Prohibits a Federal district court from approving:
    1. a proposed coupon settlement absent a finding that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate;
    2. a proposed settlement involving payments to class counsel that would result in a net monetary loss to class members, absent a finding that the loss is substantially outweighed by nonmonetary benefits; or
    3. a proposed settlement that provides greater sums to some class members solely because they are closer geographically to the court.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley [R, IA]; Bill S.5 ; vote number 2005-038 on Feb 17, 2005

    Voted YES on campaign finance reform banning soft-money contributions.

    Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance Overhaul: Vote to pass a bill that would ban soft money contributions to national political parties but permit up to $10,000 in soft money contributions to state and local parties to help with voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. The bill would stop issue ads from targeting specific candidates within 30 days of the primary or 60 days of the general election. Additionally, the bill would raise the individual contribution limit from $1,000 to $2,000 per election for House and Senate candidates, both of which would be indexed for inflation.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT, and Meehan D-MA; Bill HR 2356 ; vote number 2002-34 on Feb 14, 2002

    Voted NO on banning soft money donations to national political parties.

    Support a ban on soft money donations to national political parties but allow up to $10,000 in soft-money donations to state and local parties for voter registration and get-out-the vote activity.
    Bill HR 2356 ; vote number 2001-228 on Jul 12, 2001

    Voted YES on banning soft money and issue ads.

    Campaign Finance Reform Act to ban "soft money" and impose restrictions on issue advocacy campaigning.
    Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT; Bill HR 417 ; vote number 1999-422 on Sep 14, 1999

    Proportional IRV voting for Electoral College.

    Sanders co-sponsored for proportional IRV voting for Electoral College

    OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To provide that a State may use a proportional voting system for multiseat congressional districts.


      It is the sense of Congress that:
    1. A State should award its electoral votes for President and Vice President to the candidates who receive a majority of the votes cast in the State for such offices.
    2. An instant runoff voting (IRV) system is an effective and appropriate method for ensuring that one set of candidates will receive a majority of the votes cast in the State. Under instant runoff voting, voters rank their favorite and subsequent choice candidates, and if a majority has not voted for one candidate, the candidate with least number of votes is eliminated and another round of counting occurs. In the next round and each subsequent round, ballots are counted for the highest remaining candidate ranked on each ballot, and rounds continue until a candidate has received a majority of the votes cast.
    3. Each State should adopt an instant runoff voting system for the election of electors for President and Vice President.

    LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to House Committee on Judiciary; never came to a vote.

    Source: Voters' Choice Act (H.R.1189) 01-HR1189 on Mar 22, 2001

    Criminalize false or deceptive info about elections.

    Sanders co-sponsored criminalizing false or deceptive info about elections

    OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Amends federal criminal law to prohibit any person from knowingly deceiving any other person regarding:

    1. the time, place, or manner of conducting any federal election; or
    2. the qualifications for or restrictions on voter eligibility for any such election.
    Creates a private right of action for any person aggrieved by a violation of such prohibition. Prescribes a criminal penalty for such deceptive acts.

    SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: Voter participation is fundamental to our democracy, and we must do all we can to encourage those who can to vote. I also hope voters go to the polls with accurate information about what is on the ballot, where they are supposed to vote, and what our Nation's voting laws are.

    It might surprise some of you to know, but even in this awesome age of technological advancement and easy access to information, there are folks who will stop at nothing to try to deceive people and keep them away from the polls. These deceptive practices all too often target and exploit vulnerable populations, like minorities, the disabled, or the poor.

    Deceptive practices often rely on a few tried and true tricks. Voters are often warned that an unpaid parking ticket will lead to their arrest or that folks with family members who have been convicted of a crime are ineligible to vote. Of course, these warnings have no basis in fact, and they are made with one goal and one goal only: to keep Americans away from the polls.

    The bill I am introducing today provides the clear statutory language and authority needed to get allegations of deceptive practices investigated. It establishes harsh penalties for those found to have perpetrated them. Deceptive practices and voter intimidation are real problems and demand real solutions like those offered in my bill.

    LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; never came to a vote.

    Source: Voter Intimidation Prevention Act (S.1975/H.R.4463) 05-S1975 on Nov 8, 2005

    Require full disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.

    Sanders co-sponsored DISCLOSE Act

    Congressional Summary:

    Wikipedia & OnTheIssue Summary: