Sanders vows to oppose defense bill: 'We need to get our priorities right'

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSunday shows - Russia standoff over Ukraine dominates Sanders says Biden can't count on him to support 'almost any' spending package compromise Sanders says Republicans are 'laughing all the way to Election Day' MORE (I-Vt.) said Tuesday that he will vote against a defense policy bill being taken up by the Senate this week and opposes Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Forced deadline spurs drastic tactic in Congress Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE's (D-N.Y.) plan to link a China competitiveness bill to the legislation. 

"The Senate has spent month after month discussing the Build Back Better Act and whether we can afford to protect the children, the elderly, the sick, the poor and the future of our planet. As a nation, we need to get our priorities right. I will vote ‘NO’ on the National Defense Authorization Act," Sanders said in a statement.

He also criticized a plan by Schumer to include the competitiveness legislation, which passed the Senate earlier this year but stalled in the House, into the defense bill, which sets broad spending and guidelines for the Pentagon. 

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“It is likely that the Senate leadership will attach to the National Defense Authorization Act the so-called ‘competitiveness bill,’ which includes $52 billion in corporate welfare, with no strings attached, for a handful of extremely profitable microchip companies," Sanders said in a statement.

"This bill also contains a $10 billion handout to Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosFree speech, Whole Foods, and the endangered apolitical workplace Space: One important thing that might retain bipartisan focus Virtual realities may solve Fermi's paradox about extraterrestrials MORE for space exploration," he added.

Schumer told reporters earlier Tuesday that he will include the competitiveness legislation in the Senate's defense bill, once it is formally brought up for debate. Without a deal to speed things up, that could happen as early as Thursday. 

But Sanders voted against the competitiveness legislation earlier this year, railing, at the time, against semiconductor funding and money that would go toward a company owned by Bezos. 

Sanders is also a perennial "no" vote on the defense policy bill, which passes every year with a wide bipartisan margin. That means Democrats aren't expected to need Sanders's vote to pass it this year. Once the bill passes the Senate, they still need to work out a final deal with the House and pass it. 

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Sanders, in his statement, questioned why senators who are willing to approve the massive defense budget are also questioning the ability to afford expanding Medicare, providing paid leave and going bigger on combating climate change as part of Biden's Build Back Better agenda. 

Republicans are all opposed to the climate and social spending bill, and Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Biden: A good coach knows when to change up the team The Memo: Biden looks for way to win back deflated Black voters MORE (D-W.Va.) has emerged as a roadblock for Democrats on all three of the areas highlighted by Sanders. 

"Isn’t it strange how even as we end the longest war in our nation’s history concerns about the deficit and national debt seem to melt away under the influence of the powerful Military Industrial Complex?" Sanders said.