Sanders Defends Use Of Budget Reconciliation

03/04/10 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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AP File Photo/Toby Talbot
(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders is defending a plan by Democratic leaders in Congress to use the "budget reconciliation" process to pass a health care reform bill.

Sanders says Republicans who oppose the strategy are being ‘hypocritical' because GOP leaders have used it many times to push through controversial bills.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Democrats are eyeing the so called budget reconciliation approach because it takes only a simple majority of senators to pass the bill. 

Otherwise, Democratic leaders would need 60 votes to end a Republican filibuster and they can't achieve that without some GOP senators.

The decision to use budget reconciliation has set off a firestorm of criticism in Washington with Republican leaders accusing the Democrats of trying to "ram" an unpopular bill through Congress.

Sanders says there's a lot of hypocrisy in these GOP statements:

(Sanders) "I find it somewhat amusing that my Republican friends here are saying ‘oh, we can't go forward with Reconciliation'.  Well since 1980 reconciliation has been used 22 times - 16 of those times it's been used by the Republicans. They have used it far more than anyone else. They have used it to push through sweeping, sweeping legislation like the Contract with America."

(Kinzel) Sanders says the current bill isn't great but he says he'll support it because it includes more money for community health centers, important insurance reforms, and subsidies to help people pay for health insurance coverage:

(Sanders) "I think at the end of the day what people are more concerned about rather than process is what's in this bill. How is it going to impact their lives? And what we have got to, I think, make clear is doing nothing is just not tenable."

(Kinzel) On a different issue, Sanders is vowing to continue to fight for his plan to provide all Society Security recipients with a special one time payment of $250.  Sanders says the payments are needed because this year there will be no cost of living increase in Social Security.

His first effort to pass this plan fell 11 votes short because of concerns that it would add $13 billion to the federal deficit. Despite this defeat, Sanders says he's not giving up:

(Sanders) "I think it is extremely unfair that at a time when this Congress bailed out Wall Street, when you have folks here who have given tax breaks to billionaires, to say ‘well, we're sorry we can't afford to take care of some of the most vulnerable people in our society'."

(Kinzel) Sanders also wants the Social Security Administration to replace its current cost of living formula with one that specifically addresses the expenses of elderly people.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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