Amid the day-to-day rough-and-tumble of Washington, D.C., we become susceptible to forgetting that days turn to months, and months turn to years. But as the sands of time drift, scientists have been loudly warning about the prognosis of our planet as we know it: It’s not “we need to change before it’s too late,” but “we are on the final brink of being too late.”
On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders announced his opposition to the debt ceiling agreement Republicans ironed out with the White House due to its giveaways to fossil fuel companies and its targeting of social services.
“The best thing to be said about the current deal on the debt ceiling is that it could have been much worse,” Sanders began in a statement. “Instead of making massive cuts to health care, education, childcare, nutrition assistance, and other vital programs over the next decade, this bill proposes to make modest cuts to these programs over a 2-year period.”
Sanders panned the agreement for austerely cutting programs for working people, while doing nothing to challenge entrenched power centers in America, like the bloated military budget or Big Pharma. And he also focused on one of the more puzzling add-ins (whose presence in the bill can only be explained as a favor to Joe Manchin, an emblem of fossil fuel corruption): the expediting of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
“At a time when climate change is, by far, the most existential threat facing our country and the entire world I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a bill that makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute and destroy the planet by fast-tracking the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline,” Sanders said. “When the future of the world is literally at stake we must have the courage to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them, and the politicians they sponsor, that the future of the planet is more important than their short-term profits.”
Sanders instead offered an alternative path for the Biden administration. “The fact of the matter is that this bill is totally unnecessary. The President has the authority and the ability to eliminate the debt ceiling today by invoking the 14th Amendment,” Sanders said. “I look forward to the day when he exercises this authority and puts an end, once and for all, to the outrageous actions of the extreme right-wing to hold our entire economy hostage in order to get what they want.”
Sanders’s statement was refreshing—not just for its refusal to cave to the hostage situation that Republicans built but for its clarity in reiterating that while the latest episode of D.C. melodrama plays out, indeed, the health of the planet as we know it is “literally at stake.”
Such a statement of opposition stands in stark contrast to those put out by the likes of Nancy Mace or the extremist House Freedom Caucus, as they complain the bill does not do enough to cut government investment in the lives of its people.
“Deficit reduction cannot just be about cutting programs that working families, the children, the sick, the elderly, and the poor depend upon,” Sanders said. “It must be about demanding that the billionaire class and profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes, reining in out-of-control military spending, reducing the price of prescription drugs, and ending billions of dollars in corporate welfare that goes to the fossil fuel industry and other corporate interests.”