WASHINGTON -- It wasn't quite a "fili-Bernie," but Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a 10,000-word speech on the Senate floor launched a campaign Monday to call for eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy and protecting working people in a deficit-reduction deal.
"Instead of yielding to the incessant, extreme Republican demands as the president, in many respects, did in last year's tax vote and this year's spending negotiations, the president has got to get out of the beltway ... and rally the overwhelming majority of people who believe that deficit reduction must be based on shared sacrifice," Sanders said.
Sanders took to the floor for hour-and-a-half-long speech to call for people to contact the White House and demand corporations and the rich are hit as hard as social spending for the poor in a debt-reduction deal, which is being negotiated ahead of a vote to raise the debt ceiling.
"Tell the president not to yield one inch to Republican demands to destroy Medicare and end Medicaid while continuing tax breaks to the wealthy and the powerful," he said.
Congress must approve an increase in the debt limit, currently set at $14.29 trillion, before early August to prevent the government defaulting on its loans, according to estimates from the Treasury Department.
Republicans are calling for major spending cuts as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling, arguing that to increase the limit without preconditions would be irresponsible. But House and Senate Republicans have also said revenue-raising measures, such as ending tax breaks for the wealthy and some subsidies are off the table.
Democrats argue that certain subsidies, such as those to major oil and gas companies, and tax preferences for families that make more than $500,000 per year should be eliminated to allow for slimmer cuts to government programs and services.
In his speech, Sanders listed 13 measures that could reduce the deficit without cutting Social Security, Medicare or other programs. Along with ending tax breaks for oil and gas companies, Sanders said the government should eliminate offshore tax havens, bringing the deficit down by $40 billion over the next decade.
If Congress voted to repeal the Bush-era tax cuts for the top two percent of earners, the government could raise another $700 billion, Sanders said. Creating an estate tax on inherited wealth of more than $3.5 million would raise more than $70 billion over a decade, he added.
Sanders also called for cuts, including shrinking military spending by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as possible.
"We have got to reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon, which now consumes over half of our discretionary budget," he said. "Much of the huge spending at the Pentagon is devoted to spending money on Cold War weapons programs to fight a Soviet Union that no longer exists. That has got to stop."