The government shutdown dragged into a second week. A growing majority of Democrats and about 20 Republicans in the House favor a Senate-passed resolution to reopen the government, but Speaker John Boehner refused to bring the resolution up for a vote. When House Republicans first forced a shutdown on Oct. 1, they were demanding the defunding of Obamacare as part of any deal. That would be a death sentence for thousands of Americans without health insurance, Sen. Bernie Sanders told a Senate hearing on Thursday. As the week wore on, Republicans shifted their rationale for closing the government and defaulting on the country's debts. Now they demand deep cuts in Social Security and other programs. The whole spectacle drove public approval of Congress, especially Republicans and the Tea Party, to new lows. As Sanders sized up the situation in a Friday floor speech, he began by citing a piece in The Onion. "Psychiatrists Deeply Concerned for 5% of Americans Who Approve of Congress," the headline said.
Watch Out 1% Rep. Paul Ryan, the failed Republican candidate for vice president, had been relatively quiet about the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling. But the House Budget Committee chairman wedged himself into the debate in a column published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal. He said he would consider letting the government avoid default if "entitlement reform" is a part of the deal. In plain English, he wants to cut Social Security and Medicare. Sanders talked with Ed Schultz on Wednesday about Ryan's plan. And in an animated exchange with The Wall Street Journal, the senator on Friday detailed his own idea on how to strengthen Social Security for decades to come. He would make millionaires pay the same share of their income that everyone else contributes in payroll taxes. "If you're in the 1 percent, watch out," warned Journal editorial writer Mary Kissel. Indeed. Watch the Ed Schultz interview, Watch The Wall Street Journal interview
Obamacare "How many people will die if the Affordable Care Act is repealed?" Sanders asked at a hearing he chaired Thursday on what would happen if Obamacare is repealed. The hearing came on the 10th day of a government shutdown forced by House Republicans insisting that any deal to reopen the government defund the health care law.
Veterans As chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Sanders told a Capitol Hill news conference on Wednesday that the government shutdown is hurting veterans, including those who make up 27 percent of the furloughed federal workforce. Some 7,000 Department of Veterans Affairs workers who had begun to shrink a backlog in disability benefits claims have been laid off. The call center has been shut down for veterans wanting to take advantage of college benefits under the GI Bill. VA offices that do personal interviews and hearings at regional offices for veterans seeking benefits are shut down.
Citizens United Sanders on Tuesday attended oral arguments at the Supreme Court in a case that justices could use to throw out more legal limits on contributions by individual donors to political campaigns. "Freedom of speech, in my view, does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government," Sanders told a rally outside the Supreme Court afterward. He cited a New York Times report that the court's 2010 ruling by Citizens United has been used by the billionaires Charles and David Koch and other wealthy individuals have provided financial backing for the forces that shut down the government. McCutcheon vs. FEC could further erode campaign finance laws and extend the controversial 2010 Citizens United ruling which opened the floodgates on campaign spending by corporations and wealthy individuals.