On The Last Word, Sen. Bernie Sanders demonstrated why Democrats need his voice in the super congress if they are going to protect Social Security and Medicare.
Here is the video from MSNBC:
Host Lawrence O’Donnell asked Sen. Sanders about his odds of getting a seat on the super committee. Sanders answered, “I wouldn’t hold my breath, but I would certainly like to serve, but the fact of the matter is the Republicans are not going to ask the wealthiest people of the largest corporations to contribute one cent toward deficit reduction. The real issue is whether the Democrats will hold firm and make sure that they protect Social Security, which has not contributed one penny toward our deficit, whether they are going to protect Medicare and Medicaid and other important programs. That’s what the issue is.”
Sanders told Democrats to forget about the debt commission raising taxes on the wealthy, “No, forget about it completely. They have been enormously successful in saying they will defend to the last breath the richest people in this country and the corporations. That’s what they’ve said; it’s what they’ve done, and what they will continue to do. The real question is what the Democrats will do. Are they going to go in with similar force and strength, and say, excuse me, you’re not going to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and we’re going to hold the line on that. Probably what the fight will evolve into is whether or not we make significant cuts in defense spending. As you know, we have tripled defense spending since 1997. We got weapons systems out there that were designed to fight the Soviet Union. We can make some significant cuts. I hope the Democrats are forceful in that area.
Sen. Sanders also said that he told Harry Reid not to appoint anyone who would cut Social Security or Medicare, “Well, I told Harry. As a matter of fact, I just spoke to Senator Reid the other day, and what I said to him is, Senator Reid, do not appoint anybody to that commission who will cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The goal must be at the very least to start making significant cuts in military spending, which has tripled since 1997.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders gets it. The Republicans are not going to appoint a single person to the committee that would vote to raise taxes. All six of their votes will be a solid no against any revenue increases, so for Democrats the game is really about protecting Social Security and Medicare while cutting the defense budget.
The Democrats in the House are dead set against changes to Social Security and Medicare, so Nancy Pelosi is not going to put a single vote on that committee/super congress/whatever you want to call it that would even consider cutting entitlements. However, liberals who would protect Social Security and Medicare are scarcer in the Senate. Sherrod Brown and Al Franken would be two solid members. The problem is that Brown and Franken are in their first terms. In a seniority heavy Senate system the odds of one or both getting a seat on the committee is unlikely.
This brings us back to Sen. Sanders. If the Democratic goal is to save entitlements and cut defense, Sanders would be perfect. However I suspect that Harry Reid is probably more concerned about getting a deal and avoiding the trigger, so he will not appoint Franken, Brown, or Sanders. Instead he is likely to go with moderates, or two hardliners and a moderate.
It all hinges on who the Republicans put on the committee. Both sides are angling for the last move. Democrats want Republicans to appoint first so that they can read the GOP’s intentions and adjust, and Republicans are looking to do the same.
If Harry Reid was serious about protecting entitlements it would take him about three seconds to realize that he needs Sen. Sanders there, but there is one thing beyond all others which virtually guarantees that Bernie Sanders won’t be selected.
He’s not a Democrat.