Sen. Sanders: Republican Budget ‘Laughable,’ ‘Absurd’

By Cullen Dirner

May 10, 2011 3:56pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: House Speaker John Boehner’s declaration that budget cuts need to be in the trillions – not the billions – for Republicans to agree to a higher debt limit landed with a thud among liberals, many of whom are insisting that higher taxes be considered as part of the discussion. 

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Sen. Bernie Sanders told us that Boehner can’t reach his goals without deep cuts in critical government programs, including moves that would “decimate Medicare.”

“We're not going to ask billionaires who are doing phenomenally well and seen their tax rates go down” to sacrifice, said Sanders, I-Vt. “We’re not going to ask them to pay one penny more in taxes. That is laughable, that's absurd, and the vast majority of the American people do not support that approach.”

Sanders drew a distinction between his votes against a higher debt ceiling that he cast when Republicans were in the White House, and what Republicans are threatening to do now.

“Traditionally I think that you've seen a  lot of people including myself voted against it,” Sanders said. “But in reality I think there is the understanding that a compact has been worked out that it is going to pass. The idea that the Republicans may be very serious — maybe not, we don't know — on killing of the raising of the debt ceiling, which would cause financial chaos throughout the world — that's I think a new step forward.”

The debt ceiling is a separate debate than the one over the budget, he said.

“Do you want to endanger, literally endanger the world's financial system, maybe bring about a world depression?” Sanders said. “Is that really what you want to do? Or do you want to have an argument about the budget, which is a legitimate argument. … Republicans have their ideas, I have mine, and Democrats have theirs.”

Sanders continued: “To decimate Medicaid, when we already have 50 million people without health insurance, to bring Medicare into a voucher program, to cut back substantially on education when millions of families cannot afford to send their kids to college, and not ask millionaires and billionaires to pay one cent more in taxes, is literally laughable. It is laughable. It isn’t gonna happen, it shouldn't happen.”

Sanders also made the case for his new proposal to create a single-payer-style health care system – a bill that he knows will not advance in the current political climate.

“I think you have to have a vision. And the vision for this country should be we've got to join the rest of the industrialized world, where virtually every other country guarantees health care to their people as a right and yet ends up spending in other countries far less per capita than we do.”

And Sanders said he’s been assured that officials at the Smithsonian museums are moving toward guaranteeing that the items they sell are made in America.

“They said they're on schedule and moving forward in that direction.  it think that it is wrong that a wonderful institution like the Smithsonian — one of the things that we're so proud of here in United States of America — is selling so many products in their gift shops that were made in China and other countries. They have promised me, and I think moving in the direction of having a lot more American products to sell.”

Watch the interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders HERE:

Also today, we checked in with Democratic strategist Brendan Daly, a former top adviser to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, about the budget debate, plus the impact of the killing of Osama bin Laden on the ongoing discussion of troop withdrawals in Afghanistan.

Watch the “Top Line” segment with Brendan Daly HERE:

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