The senator concluded his remarkable 8.5 speech with a call to action. "If the American people stand up and say, 'we can do better than this, that we don’t need to drive up the national debt by giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires,' (if) the American people are prepared to stand – and we’re prepared to follow them – I think we can defeat this proposal," he declared. "I think we can come up with a better proposal which better reflects the needs of the middle class and working families of our country and, to me, most importantly, the children of our country. And with that, Madam President, I would yield the floor."
The senator was not alone in his sentiment. He was supported on the floor by an old progressive ally, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, and by a moderate Democrat, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, who does not always make common cause with the democratic socialist senator from Vermont.
Landrieu referred to the agreement the White House is trying to force the congress to accept as "almost morally corrupt."
For the most part, however, Sanders held the podium Friday, speaking calmly and in great detail about his specific objections to the tax-cut deal and about his broader concerns about federal policies that favor the wealthiest Americans while neglecting working families.
Sanders's speech capped a week in which Democrats in the House and Senate raised became increasingly vocal in their opposition to the deal that President Obama initially advanced as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.
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In a letter circulated by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, the senators said: "We have grave misgivings about the recent tax agreement. We hope that the Senate can improve on it. We look forward to working with you to ensure a vote on our amendment to strengthen Social Security in lieu of bonus tax cuts for people who are doing quite well."
They also offered an outline for a plan that would to restore tax rates on income over $1 million per year to the Clinton-era rates, and to dedicate the resulting revenues to shoring up the Social Security trust fund.
The White House will push back against any amendment strategy, fearing that changes might endanger Republican support for the agreement.
But the letter gives Reid a bargaining chip. He has a numbers problem. In addition to the eight signers of the letter—Merkley, Landrieu. Alaska's Mark Begich, Hawaii's Daniel Akaka, Ohio's Sherrod Brown, Minnesota's Al Franken, Colorado's Mark Udall and California's Barbara Boxer—several other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have voiced strong objections to the agreement.
Sanders continues to talk of using a filibuster strategy to block the proposal. And her [sic] Vermont colleague, Patrick Leahy, has been bluntly critical.
Good for Mark!