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

Sen. Bernie Sanders (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 Schumer’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. 

“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 Bezos 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. 

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 Manchin (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.

Tags anti-China competitiveness bill Bernie Sanders Build Back Better Act Charles Schumer Debt deficit Jeff Bezos Joe Manchin National Defense Authorization Act USICA

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