— By Sen. Bernie Sanders
Republican filibusters in the Senate on Monday and Tuesday blocked a bill to disclose which corporations are bankrolling which candidates and causes. Another Republic filibuster on Thursday blocked a bill to provide tax breaks for businesses that bring jobs back to the United States from low-wage countries like China. Years of inaction by Congress and the White House on climate change are said by scientists to have contributed to this summer’s severe drought. Federal disaster declarations were proclaimed Wednesday in parts of eight states. And Capitol Hill gridlock could have serious consequences on another front as Congress begins to come to grips with year-end deadlines looming on taxes and spending cuts. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday laid out his views on how to lower deficits without hurting working families in a major speech on The Truth About Deficits.
The Truth About Deficits
Unless Congress acts by the end of this year, $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts – half from the military, half from domestic programs – will automatically kick in under what the Washington wonks call sequestration. Unless Congress acts by the end of this year, all of the Bush-era tax cuts will expire. Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, the Social Security payroll tax holiday will end. With all those balls up in the air, Congress is beginning to get serious about finding alternatives. In a major Senate speech on Wednesday, Sanders spelled out his priorities. He detailed how big budget surpluses built up by President Bill Clinton were turned into big deficits under President George W. Bush. He also talked about fair ways to deal with deficits without hurting the poor, the sick and the elderly. “I hope that the road we go down in terms of deficit reduction is one that is fair to working families and the middle class, and that means asking the wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes.”
Senate Republicans on Thursday killed a measure that would encourage companies to bring overseas jobs back to the United States. Sanders said the legislation would have eliminated a tax deduction that companies can use when they move jobs overseas and would create a new tax break for companies that bring jobs back to America.
Campaign Spending Filibuster
Senate Republicans on both Monday and Tuesday blocked consideration of a bill to increase transparency in campaign spending by corporations and others. The bill would have required disclosure of anyone who donates $10,000 or more to independent groups. Sanders urged the Senate to pass the legislation that was a response to the disastrous 5-4 Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which lifted limits on campaign spending by corporations and wealthy individuals.
House leaders signaled they won’t take up a Senate-passed bill to reform the U.S. Postal Service. While press reports portray a Postal Service in dire financial straits, the fact is that revenue from selling stamps and other products exceeded the costs of delivering mail by $200 million during the first quarter of this year. Yes, the USPS needs to be modernized to meet changing needs in the era of e-mail. Sanders helped write a Senate bill that passed in April which would do that. It also would revise a law that makes the Postal Service sock billions of dollars away for future retiree health benefits in a fund that already is so flush it can provide benefits for decades to come.