Sanders backs budget deal despite defense spending concerns

Sanders backs budget deal despite defense spending concerns

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden wins Connecticut in final presidential primary of year Vermont Rep. Peter Welch easily wins primary Three pros and three cons to Biden picking Harris MORE (I-Vt.) on Wednesday delivered a key endorsement to Congress's sweeping two-year budget deal, even though it includes major boosts in defense spending without tax increases that he has long criticized.

“This is not the budget I would have written,” Sanders wrote in a statement Wednesday. “But I will support it because it’s much better than across-the-board budget cuts, increased premiums for Medicare, cuts to Social Security and the constant threat we won’t pay our bills.”

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It had been unclear whether the Democratic presidential candidate, who is running on a populist message, would support the deal that has also been embraced by most Republicans.

His statement makes clear that he does not plan to oppose the deal to boost his campaign, unlike GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who was quick to condemn the deal.

Sanders lamented that the deal “increases Pentagon spending too much” and “doesn’t ask the most profitable corporations and the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.” Both are issues that he has repeatedly raised on the campaign trail, while pledging to expand social programs, like Social Security.  

But Sanders said the two-year deal would alleviate more pressing concerns of a government shutdown or debt default — both of which are averted in the multibillion-dollar bill.

The bill also staves off double-digit premium increases to about one-third of Medicare recipients, and another double-digit cut that would have hit people who receive Social Security disability benefits next year.

It also adopts a cost-saving strategy within Medicaid, which Sanders has twice introduced in the Senate. Under the provision, generic drug companies would be required to pay a rebate to Medicaid when prices increase at a rate steeper than inflation.

Sanders added that the deal gives Congress time to focus on a host of other issues, listing about a dozen of his platform goals, ranging from raising the minimum wage to reforming the criminal justice system.

Democrats have already been lining up behind the deal, though some more liberal lawmakers — such as those in the Congressional Progressive Caucus — say they're still deciding whether they'll support it. Sanders's support makes it far less likely that any Democrats will break rank.

Sanders announced he would back the deal just hours after the likely next House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also said he would support it.