Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made it clear Sunday that he believes publicly shaming members of the Democratic Party — with whom he caucuses — as the correct strategy in an evenly-divided Senate where he cannot win without their votes.
Sanders made a brief appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he told anchor Chuck Todd that the Arizona Democratic Party was “exactly right” to censure Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for her refusal to back changes to the filibuster — a position also taken by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) — which effectively blocked the passage of two Democrat-led bills aimed at a federal overhaul of election law.
Sanders began by saying that he believed it was past time to get out of the back rooms and onto the Senate floor, arguing that they should start voting on things so that the American people could see for themselves where everyone stood.
“Look, as a tactical issue, you have been around long enough to know that funny things happen when a bill gets to the floor. Clearly we have got to deal with the enormous crisis of climate. Let’s put a strong bill on the floor. If Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema want to vote against it, Republicans want to vote against it, we can go from there,” Sanders explained. “What we can’t continue to do is these endless backroom negotiations. The American people have to see where we are, and after that happens, we’ll do the best we possibly can.”
“Do you think, though, it’s been healthy for the Democratic Party to highlight the division the party?” Todd pressed. “You look at Senator Sinema, she was censured by the Arizona Democratic Party —”
“Good,” Sanders interjected.
“— Over what some would look at as a disagreement over tactics. Not substance, but over tactics. Do you think that was an appropriate action?”
“Yeah, I do. I think it’s exactly right,” Sanders said emphatically, arguing that because “voting rights” were the issue at hand, the situation had to be handled differently.
.@chucktodd: “Sen. Sinema, she was censured by the Arizona Democratic Party.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): “Good.” pic.twitter.com/wAnhGQe4N1
— The Recount (@therecount) January 23, 2022
“Right now you have a Republican Party under Trump’s leadership that is perpetuating this big lie that Trump actually won the election, and, therefore, you have 19 Republican states that are moving very aggressively into voter suppression, into extreme gerrymandering, some of these states are doing away with the powers of election officials,” Sanders continued. “They are moving in a very anti, anti-democratic way. It was absolutely imperative that we change the rules so we could pass voting rights legislation. All Republicans voted against us, two Democrats voted against us. That was a terrible, terrible vote, and I think what the Arizona Democratic Party did was exactly right.”
Forcing the hands of members of the Democratic Party is hardly a new tactic for Sanders. Just before Christmas, he called for a public vote on the Democrats’ massive spending package, Build Back Better, saying that he wanted the American people to see Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) vote against it.
“Let him vote ‘No’ in front of the entire world,” Sanders said.
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