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Bernie Sanders: GOP is holding world economy 'hostage' with debt ceiling

Sen. Bernie Sanders blamed the Trump administration for the nation's debt and accused the Republican Party of holding the world economy "hostage."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., accused Republicans on Sunday of holding the world economy "hostage" with the debt ceiling. 

In an interview with CNN's "State of the Union," Sanders claimed that "a lot of that debt was accumulated under the Trump administration," and said the GOP wants to make cuts to necessary health and education programs.

"What the Republicans are saying in their budget proposal is that at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, when the richest people are becoming much richer while working-class people are struggling, what they want to do is to cut programs for nutrition, for education, for health care for all," Sanders said. "Hundreds of hundreds of thousands of people off the health care they need. Our health care system today is dysfunctional enough. It is expensive enough. You don't throw people off of health care. You don't hold those people hostage to." 

In a narrow 217-215 vote Wednesday, House Republicans delivered Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the biggest win of his tenure leading the chamber so far by passing his bill to raise the debt limit and slash spending. The bill serves as the GOP's position on how to avoid a debt crisis in the coming weeks. As expected, not one Democrat voted for it.


McCarthy and House Republicans left cuts to military spending off the table when it came to their Limit, Save, Grow Act, which aims to save $4.5 trillion in exchange for lifting the nation's borrowing cap by $1.5 trillion, but Sanders said Sunday that is something he was open to. 

"I think we can move toward cutting military spending without spending 10 times more than the people than any other country on earth. Massive cost overruns in the Pentagon," Sanders said. "I'm certainly open to… demanding that the largest corporations in this country and the wealthiest people start paying their fair share of taxes. And I'm willing to look at any other proposals. A lot of waste within government. Let's go after it. But don't go to war against the working class in this country." 

President Biden’s refusal to negotiate may not be a tenable position for the White House as the deadline nears for action. While the White House is taking the long view, preparing to slam the Republicans for what Biden calls "wacko" ideas that will harm Americans, at some point the president – and the Democrat-led Senate – will need to respond to the House.

Economic analysts warn that even the political threat of a federal default on the nation’s debt, now at $31 trillion, would send shockwaves through an already jittery economy. With economic growth falling to a sluggish 1% annual rate last quarter, according to new data last week, signs point to the potential for a recession ahead, according to The Associated Press. 


The Treasury Department continues to pay the nation’s bills, but the money will soon fall short, even though tax returns in April helped replenish the coffers. An analysis from Goldman Sachs puts the deadline for raising the debt limit in late July. CNN host Dana Bash said McCarthy has been hammering Senate Democrats for insisting on a clean debt ceiling increase, asking Sanders, "Are you worried that voters will start to blame Democrats?" 

"That's what Donald Trump wanted when he was president. That's what he got. That's what Ronald Reagan wanted when he was president. That's what he got," Sanders said in response. "You don't hold the country and the world's economy hostage over the debt ceiling. You pay your bills. This country now and what we're trying to do on our committee, is address the severe problems facing the working class in this country." 

"I would say to my Republican colleagues and some Democrats, do you have the guts to finally stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and make sure that all of our people can get the medicine that they need and not have a situation where one out of four Americans, not a one out of four, can't afford the medicine that doctors prescribe?" 

"Now, by the way, this bill, to my mind, is only a start," Sanders also said. "The following week, we're going to bring three of the major CEOs of the pharmaceutical industry into the committee. And we are going to ask them, among other things, why is the price of insulin for diabetics so high? They've lowered it. I want to make sure as a result of public pressure, they lowered insulin costs. I want to make sure that in fact, translates into lower prices for ordinary people who need it. And I want to see substantially lower prescription drug prices across the board." 

Bash, noting how Biden would be age 86 by the end of his second term, asked Sanders if age should be something voters consider in 2024. Sanders is one year older than Biden. 

"When you look at a candidate, you consider a lot. I think age is one thing. I think experience is another thing. I think your record that you have established is another thing. But to my mind, Dana, when you put it all together, what you have to look at is what does the candidate stand for? Which side are they on?" Sanders said. "Are they on the side of the billionaire class or are they on the side of working people? Look, it is no great secret. I ran against Biden, no great secret that he and I have strong differences of opinion."


"But when we live in a nation where you have a major political party, the Republican Party, where many, not all, but many of their leadership doesn't even believe in democracy, they maintain the myth that Trump won the last election," Sanders claimed. "They're trying to keep people from voting. They're trying to deny women the right to control their own bodies. So that's a whole issue out there. If you believe in democracy, you want to see more people vote, not fewer people vote. I think the choice is pretty clear, and that choice is Biden." 

Fox News' Elizabeth Elkind and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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