Speaking to The New York Times on The Ezra Klein Show podcast about the passing of the $1.9tn Covid-relief bill dubbed the American Rescue Plan, Mr Sanders said: “I think the moment was ready and then you had a president who, to his credit, as everybody knows, was a moderate Democrat throughout his time in the Senate, who had the courage to look at the moment and say, ‘you know what? I have got to act boldly’.”
Mr Sanders added: “What I hope very much is that understanding of the need to act [boldly] goes beyond the American Rescue Plan and that is the path that Biden continues during his administration.”
Comparing ARP to the 2009 stimulus bill aimed at combatting the recession, a bill that was over a trillion dollars smaller than ARP, Mr Klein asked Mr Sanders: “Why are 50 Senate Democrats in 2021 legislating so much more progressively and ambitiously than 59 did in 2009?”
“I think the conclusion from the White House and from Congress is, now is the time to do what the American people need us to do. Let’s do it. And it turned out to be a $1.9 trillion bill which, to my mind, was the single most significant piece of legislation for working-class people that has been passed since the 1960s,” Mr Sanders said.
Progressive wins in ARP include an expanded child tax credit, increased unemployment benefits, and funding for state and local governments. But a big loss for the movement was the removal of the increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 from the current level of $7.25.
“I was bitterly disappointed, obviously, that we lost the minimum wage in the reconciliation process as a result of a decision from the parliamentarian, which I think was a wrong decision. But we’re not giving up on that. We’re going to come back and we’re going to do it,” Mr Sanders said.
Mr Sanders was the favourite of younger voters in the 2016 and 2020 primaries.
“I love the younger generation, I really do. And it’s not just because they supported me. People say, ‘how did you get the support of the younger people?’
“We treated them with respect and we talked about the issues to them in the same way we talked about the issues to every other generation that’s out there.”
He mentioned two reasons why he thought so many younger voters cast their ballots for him.
He said: “For a variety of reasons, the younger generation today is the most progressive generation in the modern history of this country. This is a generation that is firmly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobia, anti-xenophobia, a very compassionate generation that believes in economic and social and environmental justice.”
He added: “The second thing you’ve got is … This is a generation of young people that is really hurting economically. This is the first generation in the modern history of this country where, everything being equal, they’re going to have a lower standard of living than their parents, and that’s even before the pandemic, which has made a bad situation worse.
“This is a generation where, on average, young workers are making less money than their parents. They’re having a much harder time buying a home or paying the rent. This is a generation stuck with a huge amount of student debt.”
Mr Sanders said that in a 50-50 Senate “any one person could prevent us from moving forward”.
But he said he thinks that “there is an understanding” within the broad Democratic Senate caucus that “despite our differences … we have got to work with the President of the United States, who I think is prepared to go forward aggressively in a number of issues.
“We cannot sabotage the needs of the American people,” Mr Sanders said.
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