This list of Bernie Sanders’ accomplishments is for those who think Bernie Sanders has achieved “nothing” in his time in office, or think he’s an uncompromising leftist ideologue who doesn’t know how to “get things done,” or who think he couldn’t possibly achieve anything as president. These ideas are floating around Facebook, so I think it’s time to have a look at Bernie’s actual record.
Over the past 50 years, Bernie has had a distinguished career as a social justice activist and an elected official. He’s been a mayor, a congressman and a senator. But I want to add a few accomplishments that don’t appear on his website. I want to acknowledge that he has had the courage to:
- run for president without taking Wall Street or corporate money,
- run for president against the formidable Clinton machine
- run as a Democrat without backing or support from the Democratic Party,
- run in the context of blatant corporate media bias for Hillary and against him
That’s a lot of courage, and I think he needs to be commended for it. Indeed, Bernie is a rare bird. His life has been honed by decades of hard work as a public servant on behalf of poor and middle class Americans. He has had the integrity to live his life according to his progressive values. Is Bernie perfect? No. But he has never shilled for banks and corporations, and that’s a big accomplishment in Washington DC.
You will never hear Bernie spouting focus-group talking points, or shifting his message daily to see what sticks to the wall, or reading prepared speeches off a teleprompter. Bernie doesn’t have to use a teleprompter. He’s been talking about income inequality and social justice for fifty years, and his message hasn’t wavered. He understands, on a deep level, the struggles of the poor and the middle class and the origins of injustice and inequality. His wisdom and authenticity is resonating among voters who have lost confidence in the political process.
Some of Bernie’s accomplishments listed below are his votes against war. Why are votes an accomplishment? He was correct in his predictions that they would lead to disaster. These votes underscore his wisdom and judgment, qualities I want in a president. Through deal making and compromise with Democrats and Republicans, Bernie has amassed a solid record on behalf of the Black, Latino, women, LGBT and elderly communities, on behalf of veterans, and on behalf of lower and middle income individuals and families. He has consistently given voice to those with less power. He will continue to do that as president.
Bernie’s North Star has always been the poor and middle classes. No surprise, he has the highest approval rating of any U.S. senator—an astonishing 83% of Vermonters trust Bernie to represent their interests. Instead of lowering expectations of what’s possible, Bernie continues to offer a bold and humane vision of what this country can be.
- Elected by the state of Vermont 8 times to serve in the House of Representatives.
- The longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history.
- He was dubbed the “amendment king” in the House of Representatives for passing more amendments than any other member of Congress.
- Ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee.
- Former student organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
- Led the first ever civil rights sit-in in Chicago history to protest segregated housing.
- In 1963, Bernie Sanders participated in MLK’s Civil Rights March. One of only 2 sitting US Senators to have heard MLK’s “I have a Dream Speech” in person in the march on Washington, DC.
- Former professor of political science at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and at Hamilton College.
- Former mayor of Burlington, VT. In a stunning upset in 1981, Sanders won the mayoral race in Burlington, Vermont’s largest city. He shocked the city’s political establishment by defeating a six-term, local machine mayor. Burlington is now reported to be one of the most livable cities in the nation.
- Co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus and chaired the group for its first 8 years.
- Both the NAACP and the NHLA (National Hispanic Leadership Agenda) have given Sanders 100% voting scores during his tenure in the Senate. Earns a D- from the NRA.
- 1984: Mayor Sanders established the Burlington Community Land Trust, the first municipal housing land-trust in the country for affordable housing. The project becomes a model emulated throughout the world. It later wins an award from Jack Kemp-led HUD.
- 1991: one of a handful in Congress to vote against authorizing US military force in Iraq. “I have a real fear that the region is not going to be more peaceful or more stable after the war,” he said at the time.
- 1992: Congress passes Sanders’ first signed piece of legislation to create the National Program of Cancer Registries. A Reader’s Digest article calls the law “the cancer weapon America needs most.” All 50 states now run registries to help cancer researchers gain important insights.
- November 1993: Sanders votes against the Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement. Returning from a tour of factories in Mexico, Sanders says: “If NAFTA passes, corporate profits will soar because it will be even easier than now for American companies to flee to Mexico and hire workers there for starvation wages.”
- July 1996: Sanders is one of only 67 (out of 435, 15%) votes against the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married. Sanders urged the Supreme Court to throw out the law, which it did in a landmark 2013 ruling – some 17 years later.
- July 1999: Standing up against the major pharmaceutical companies, Sanders becomes the first member of Congress to personally take seniors across the border to Canada to buy lower-cost prescription drugs. The congressman continues his bus trips to Canada with a group of breast cancer patients the following April. These brave women are able to purchase their medications in Canada for almost one-tenth the price charged in the States.
- August 1999: An overflow crowd of Vermonters packs a St. Michael’s College town hall meeting hosted by Sanders to protest an IBM plan to cut older workers’ pensions by as much as 50 percent. CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and The New York Times cover the event. After IBM enacts the plan, Sanders works to reverse the cuts, passing a pair of amendments to prohibit the federal government from acting to overturn a federal district court decision that ruled that IBM’s plan violated pension age discrimination laws. Thanks to Sanders’ efforts, IBM agreed to a $320 million legal settlement with some 130,000 IBM workers and retirees.
- November 1999: About 10 years before the 2008 Wall Street crash spins the world economy into a massive recession, Sanders votes “no” on a bill to undo decades of financial regulations enacted after the Great Depression. “This legislation,” he predicts at the time, “will lead to fewer banks and financial service providers, increased charges and fees for individual consumers and small businesses, diminished credit for rural America and taxpayer exposure to potential losses should a financial conglomerate fail. It will lead to more mega-mergers, a small number of corporations dominating the financial service industry and further concentration of power in our country.” The House passed the bill 362-57 over Sanders’ objection.
- October 2001: Sanders votes against the USA Patriot Act. “All of us want to protect the American people from terrorist attacks, but in a way that does not undermine basic freedoms,” Sanders says at the time. He subsequently votes against reauthorizing the law in 2006 and 2011.
- October 2002: Sanders votes against the Bush-Cheney war in Iraq. He warns at the time that an invasion could “result in anti-Americanism, instability and more terrorism.” Hillary Clinton votes in favor of it.
- November 2006: Sanders defeats Vermont’s richest man, Rich Tarrant, to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Sanders, running as an Independent, is endorsed by the Vermont Democratic Party and supported by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
- December 2007: Sanders’ authored energy efficiency and conservation grant program passes into law. He later secures $3.2 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for the grant program.
- September 2008: Thanks to Sanders’ efforts, funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funding doubles, helping millions of low-income Americans heat their homes in winter.
- February 2009: Sanders works with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to pass an amendment to an economic recovery bill preventing Wall Street banks that take taxpayer bailouts from replacing laid-off U.S. workers with exploited and poorly-paid foreign workers.
- December 2009: Sanders passes language in the Affordable Care Act to allow states to apply for waivers to implement pilot health care systems by 2017. The legislation allows states to adopt more comprehensive systems to cover more people at lower costs.
- March 2010: President Barack Obama signs into law the Affordable Care Act with a major Sanders provision to expand federally qualified community health centers. Sanders secures $12.5 billion in funding for the program which now serves more than 25 million Americans. Another $1.5 billion from a Sanders provision went to the National Health Service Corps for scholarships and loan repayment for doctors and nurses who practice in under-served communities.
- July 2010: Sanders works with Republican Congressman Ron Paul in the House to pass a measure as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill to audit the Federal Reserve, revealing how the independent agency gave $16 trillion in near zero-interest loans to big banks and businesses after the 2008 economic collapse.
- March 2013: Sanders, now chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and backed by seniors, women, veterans, labor unions and disabled Americans, leads a successful effort to stop a “chained-CPI” proposal supported by Congressional Republicans and the Administration to cut Social Security and disabled veterans’ benefits.
- April 2013: Sanders introduces legislation to break up major Wall Street banks so large that the collapse of one could send the overall economy into a downward spiral.
- August 2014: A bipartisan $16.5 billion veterans bill written by Sen. Sanders, Sen. John McCain and Rep. Jeff Miller is signed into law by President Barack Obama. The measure includes $5 billion for the VA to hire more doctors and health professionals to meet growing demand for care.
- January 2015: Sanders takes over as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, using the platform to fight for his economic agenda for the American middle class.
- January 2015: Sanders votes against the Keystone XL pipeline, which would allow multinational corporation TransCanada to transport dirty tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
- March 2015: Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation to expand benefits and strengthen the retirement program for generations to come. The Social Security Expansion Act was filed on the same day Sanders and other senators received the petitions signed by 2 million Americans, gathered by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
- September 2015: Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) today introduced bills to ban private prisons, reinstate the federal parole system and eliminate quotas for the number of immigrants held in detention.
- January 2016: Sanders Places Hold on FDA Nominee Dr. Robert Califf because of his close ties to the pharmaceutical industry and lack of commitment to lowering drug prices. There is no reason to believe that he would make the FDA work for ordinary Americans, rather than just the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies.