The following is a transcript of an interview with Senator Bernie Sanders that aired on Sunday, September 19, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re back now with the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who joins us from Burlington. Good morning to you, senator.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Lots to get to with you today. But I do want to ask your reaction to news that the U.S. military killed seven children, three civilian adults in this drone strike. You have in the past been very critical of reliance on drone strikes. Are you comfortable with the Biden administrations over the horizon policy?
SEN. SANDERS: Well, I certainly hope they understand what happened and make sure that never happens again. This is not only a human tragedy, it reflects on us before the entire world. It’s unacceptable.
MARGARET BRENNAN: On immigration, I also want to get your reaction to what the Biden administration just said they’re doing this weekend, which is to step up deportations, particularly of some of these Haitian migrants who have gathered in southern Texas, thousands of them. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has called it inhumane. Do you agree with her and looking at what you’re working on right now on Capitol Hill, do you expect immigration will be tucked into this $3.5 trillion spending plan?
SEN. SANDERS: I hope it will in the sense that right now we have many, many millions of undocumented people in this country, people who are working hard. In fact, people who have maintained this economy, people doing the essential work, something like 11 million people. And I would hope very much, and I think the American people agree, that now is the time. And if we can do it through reconciliation, I’m there. I want to do it to move toward a path towards citizenship and comprehensive immigration reform through the reconciliation bill. That’s my hope.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Whether or not that can be done is still going to be decided. I know you say you want it done. But isn’t this exactly the same kind of social policy that moderates are bulking- balking at here because you’re–
SEN. SANDERS: Well actually.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –tucking it into a mechanism that even you–
SEN. SANDERS: MARGARET, actually, the truth–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –have said in the past to just be used for budget and spending?
SEN. SANDERS: Well, the truth is that when you because we have no Republican support in trying to pass a significant piece of legislation representing working families, we have to do it through the so-called reconciliation process, which means that you have to obey the Byrd rules. I won’t go into- bore you with all the details. So, it’s something that we are arguing right now. But I do hope as we move toward what I believe is the most consequential piece of legislation for the working class of this country, as we demand that the wealthiest people and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes as we lower the cost of prescription drugs as we expand Medicare to include dental care for seniors and hearing aids and eyeglasses as we lower the childhood poverty as we have already done, maintain that by 50% as a result of the American Rescue Plan. I hope that immigration reform is part of that general package.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But don’t all these very worthy causes you’re laying out deserve their own debate and consideration. You in the past have said that this is not how this should happen.–
SEN. SANDERS: MARGARET right now we have- right now, we have no Republican support. Zero. There’s not one Republican who was prepared to stand up to the drug companies and lower the cost of prescription drugs.–
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you may not have full democratic support either.
SEN. SANDERS: — Not one republican who wants to build affordable housing. We can’t do it without the reconciliation package. So right now, what we are doing and let’s be clear, and I want the American people to understand it. We’re taking on the pharmaceutical industry. We’re spending millions and millions of dollars trying to make sure they could charge us 10 times more than the people of other countries for drugs. We’re taking on the health care industry, does not want to expand Medicare. We’re taking on the fossil fuel industry who thinks it’s OK to continue emitting carbon while destroying the planet.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, but you have to–
SEN. SANDERS: This is really a monumental struggle.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand it’s monumental and it’s a struggle within your own party–
SEN. SANDERS: You understand that?
MARGARET BRENNAN: –to be frank because Senator Manchin just met this week with President Biden. He continues to say the number you’re asking for, it’s too big. It’s too much. Will you meet with the president this week and do you plan to give anything here to get closer to the numbers–
SEN. SANDERS: Well, MARGARET, I’ll tell you this–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –that the moderates in your own party say need to be met?
SEN. SANDERS: Well, let me tell you this. We have started off, as you know, with, I would guess, 80% of the Democratic caucus supporting a $6 trillion bill. Remember, this is over 10 years. Per year, it’s less than we spend on the military. Now maybe you can tell me, or somebody else can tell me, how much we should spend to save the planet. Because what the scientists are telling us is that if we don’t get a handle on climate change within the next few years, there will be irreparable damage. And you know what? I got four kids and seven grandchildren. And I think we have a moral responsibility to leave them a planet that is healthy and is habitable–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you sure that President–
SEN. SANDERS: –Right now we got 50, we got 50 votes. We’re going to have to work it out, as we did with the American Rescue Plan. But I have already made, and my colleagues have made a major compromise, going from six trillion down to three and a half trillion.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So am I hearing you correctly when you say you are not willing to move on that $3.5 number, even if the president asks you to do it? I mean, are you risking losing out?
SEN. SANDERS: Look, right now what we are doing is we are engaging with the House and the Senate. It is a complicated proposal. All I am telling you is the $3.5 trillion is much too low. A compromise has already been made; an agreement has been made. And the American people, by the way, poll after poll after poll are telling us–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SEN. SANDERS: –that now is the time to stand up to powerful special interests. Now is the time to start representing working families. On all of these issues–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SEN. SANDERS: –they are enormously powerful and maybe, just maybe we can work for workers for a change and not just wealthy campaigns.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You keep saying the number of 50 votes, but it is well reported that Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema are not with you–
SEN. SANDERS: You know–
MARGARET BRENNAN: –on this within the Democratic Party. Are you saying,–
SEN. SANDERS: Well, we went through this with the American Rescue Plan.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –that President Biden will get them all in line?
SEN. SANDERS: We dealt with this with the American Rescue Plan, which, as you know, is the most significant piece of legislation to take us out of the economic decline. And it cut childhood poverty by 50%. It provided unemployment benefits. It did what had to be done to get us out of the emergency. We came together.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SEN. SANDERS: I expect, because of the pressure of the American people we’re going to come together again and do what has to be done.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Will you meet with President Biden this week, just like Senator Manchin did last?
SEN. SANDERS: I talked to, I talked to- I’m happy to meet with the president any time, but at the end of the day, I think what–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, no.
SEN. SANDERS: –the overwhelming majority of the American people want us to do is finally stand up for them, not just the drug companies and the healthcare industry and the fossil fuel industry. This is what we are trying to do. It’s an enormous fight. We’re going to win it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s an enormous fight and we will track it. Thank you very much, Senator Sanders. We’ll be right back in a moment with more FACE THE NATION.