It’s just one of the encouraging changes in Washington. From The Guardian:
As Democrats take control of the Senate, Bernie Sanders has taken on his new role as chair of the powerful Senate Budget Committee. [Correction: No, he hasn’t. The Republican leader in the Senate is using the threat of a filibuster to stop Democrats from becoming committee chairmen. See “So Much For Unity — U.S. Senate Edition”. I assume this is a temporary problem.]
At the helm of the Budget Committee, Sanders will be in charge of the reconciliation process, which allows Congress to move through legislation without the 60-vote supermajority needed to overcome filibuster. Reconciliation can be used to move through key coronavirus relief measures, including stimulus payments.
Sanders has said that he’d love for a bipartisan effort on coronavirus relief, but he won’t let a desire for bipartisanship delay action.
“We should hear what my Republican colleagues have to say, but we are not going to spend months and months and not address the incredible pain millions of families are experiencing,” Sanders said.
Senator Sanders described his goals in The Guardian today:
In this moment of unprecedented crises, Congress and the Biden administration must respond through unprecedented action. No more business as usual. No more same old, same old.
Democrats, who will now control the White House, the Senate and the House, must summon the courage to demonstrate to the American people that government can effectively and rapidly respond to their pain and anxiety. As the incoming chairman of the Senate budget committee that is exactly what I intend to do.
What does all of this mean for the average American?
It means that we aggressively crush the pandemic and enable the American people to return to their jobs and schools. This will require a federally-led emergency program to produce the quantity of vaccines that we need and get them into people’s arms as quickly as possible.
It means that during the severe economic downturn we’re experiencing, we must make sure that all Americans have the financial resources they need to live with dignity. We must increase the $600 in direct payments for every working-class adult and child that was recently passed to $2,000, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expand unemployment benefits and prevent eviction, homelessness and hunger.
It means that, during this raging pandemic, we must guarantee healthcare to all. We must also end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on Earth not to provide paid family and medical leave to workers.
It means making pre-kindergarten and childcare universal and available to every family in America.
Despite what you may have heard, there is no reason why we cannot do all of these things. Through budget reconciliation, a process that only requires a majority vote in the Senate, we can act quickly and pass this emergency legislation.
But that is not enough. This year we must also pass a second reconciliation bill that deals with the major structural changes that our country desperately needs. Ultimately, we must confront the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality and create a country that works for all and not just the few. Americans should no longer be denied basic economic rights that are guaranteed to people in virtually every other major country.
This means using a second reconciliation bill to create millions of good-paying jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and constructing affordable housing, modernizing our schools, combatting climate change and making massive investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
It means making public colleges, universities, trade schools and Historically Black Colleges and Universities tuition-free and forcefully addressing the outrageous level of student debt for working families.
And it means making the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes. We cannot continue to allow profitable corporations like Amazon to make billions of dollars in taxes and pay nothing in net federal income taxes. And billionaires cannot be allowed to pay a lower tax rate than working-class Americans. We need real tax reform.
There is no reason Joe Biden could not sign into law two major bills that will accomplish most of the goals I listed above within the first 100 days of the new Congress. We cannot allow Mitch McConnell and the Republican leadership to sabotage legislation that would improve the lives of millions of working Americans and is wildly popular.
Let us never forget. When Republicans controlled the Senate, they used the reconciliation process to pass trillions of dollars in tax breaks primarily to the top 1% and multinational corporations. Further, they were able to confirm three rightwing US supreme court judges over a very short period of time by a simple majority vote.
If the Republicans could use the reconciliation process to protect the wealthy and the powerful, we can use it to protect working families, the sick, the elderly, the disabled and the poor.
Now all the Democrats have to do is to overcome McConnell’s scheme, so Sanders and his Democratic colleagues actually become committee chairmen.