Leahy, Sanders rail against Republicans on federal shutdown

Vermont's congressional delegation -- Rep. Peter Welch (left), Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Patrick Leahy (right) -- meet with then-Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Photo courtesy of Sen. Leahy's Office

Vermont’s congressional delegation — Rep. Peter Welch (left), Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Patrick Leahy (right) — meet with then-Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Photo courtesy of Sen. Leahy’s Office

Partisan rancor is in abundant supply on Capitol Hill as Congress grapples with the prospect of a government shutdown and a credit default.

Vermont’s two senators gave exasperated speeches about the situation on the Senate floor Tuesday.

To avoid a shutdown, the Senate and House have to agree on a budget bill. The House passed a bill that would temporarily maintain government funding, but it also cuts funding for the Affordable Care Act. The Senate is expected to reject that proposal. Beyond the threat of a shutdown, some Republicans have also sought to make raising the debt ceiling contingent on entitlement cuts and an Obamacare rollback.

The full text of Sen. Patrick Leahy’s speech is available here, but the senator went off-script several times, scolding Republicans for bringing Congress to an impasse.

“I remember that Bill Murray movie ‘Groundhog Day,’” Leahy began. “Wonderful movie. Farcical, but nowhere near as farcical as the Groundhog Day we have here in Congress.”

Leahy also described his grandchildren as more magnanimous than congressional Republicans. “I love my grandchildren. They range from 5 to 15 … They sometimes have little squabbles, but they work it out. This [Congress] is a playground that would be a terrible example to children in a schoolyard.”

The senior senator accused a “tiny minority” of taking part in political antics to attract television time. “Stop running to the cameras, and giving little soundbites,” he said.

Sanders focused his ire on Texas Republicans, in particular. He read from the state’s 2012 party platform, describing the document as a blueprint for the “rightwing extremist” direction in which the national party is headed.

Republicans’ efforts to cut food stamps and defund the Affordable Care Act are just “the beginning of the game,” Sanders said.

“All of these issues are related to something that is much, much larger and that is the transformation of American society in a radically different way than it is today,” Sanders said. “And what my Republican colleagues, almost without exception, want to do now is take us back to the 1920s where working people had virtually no protection on the job at all.”

One by one, he railed against other proposals outlined in the document, which ranged from shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency to repealing the minimum wage.

Later that afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz, a member of the cadre of Texas Republicans, took to the floor, vowing to speak against the Affordable Care Act until he could no longer stand.

Alicia Freese


  1. Keith Stern :

    I never thought Bernie would flat out lie.

    • Lee Russ :

      What did he lie about? Do you think he was lying about what the Texas state platform said?

      Do you think Eisenhower was deluded when he wrote this to his brother?

      “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid. ”

      Too bad Ike didn’t appreciate the power of propaganda and its ability to convince a significant chunk of Americans of the truth of the ideas held by the “negligible” number of “stupid” people .

      • Keith Stern :

        “And what my Republican colleagues, almost without exception, want to do now is take us back to the 1920s where working people had virtually no protection on the job at all.”
        Sounds good but there is no truth at all to that statement. The facts are that the Democrats want to over-regulate business to the point they leave the country or just close their doors. We can see it in Vermont and we can see it nationally. Regulations yes but not to the extreme.
        Obamacare is a recipe for disaster. When unions don’t support Democrat plans you know there is real trouble in them.

        • Lee Russ :

          Those aren’t facts, they’re your opinions. There have been plenty of signs that a sizable portion of Republicans in office want to strip away regulations that provide some measure of protection to ordinary people.

          Whether regulation is excessive is, of course, a subjective issue.

          • Keith Stern :

            Lee if you see a body in the road and someone goes up and checks and says there’s no pulse, the person isn’t breathing, and there’s no heartbeat, this person is dead, would you say that’s your opinion?
            Why is it in the upper valley the industry and big stores are east of the Connecticut? What is the difference between the two states?
            As for your “signs” you buy the Democrat rants as gospel. Let’s see one example of the Republicans where they want to strip away regulations to the detriment of the people.

          • Lee Russ :

            Come on Keith, Republicans have floated trial balloons about relaxing child labor laws, lots of other labor laws, unemployment benefits, social security, and more. I suppose you could argue that you don’t find those policies “detrimental,” but I sure do.

            Why is NH retail beating VT retail along the NH border? I’ll buy that NH’s lack of sales tax is a considerable factor. But (1) what does that have to do with what the Republicans in the federal legislature do? and (2) Why is the western end of the state doing better than the NY towns along that border?

          • Keith Stern :

            Regulations and taxes, pure and simple.
            You can believe all you want about the “evil Republicans” but it is purely the Democrats exaggerating their positions and the liberal media running with it.

          • Lee Russ :

            What does “regulations and taxes, pure and simple” mean? You started by asking me for a single concrete example of Republicans wanting to strip away regulations to the detriment of the people. I cited many. What does your response mean?

        • Tom Haviland :

          The AFL-CIO does not support one portion – the excise tax on so-called ‘Cadillac’ plans. Easy enough to google

          • Keith Stern :

            And? They are going to oppose provisions that hurt their members.

  2. Republicans are constituents as well as taxpayers, voters and humans with opinions. You and these guys who were elected are demonizing republicans. Old lawyer game. We are not demons. Get over it.

    • Lee Russ :

      And how exactly did Leahy and/or Sanders demonize Republicans?

  3. Dan Carver :

    Groundhog Day is a great example, but in a different context.
    We are in need of raising the debt ceiling yet again? I thought our leaders fixed that the last time they needed to raise the ceiling…
    Government revenues as a % of GDP are at an all-time high. What we have here is a spending problem and our senators will say and do anything to avoid addressing the spending problem.
    And with the exception of unexpected high tax revenues during the dot.com boom, our leaders have passed deficit spending budgets, year after year, after year.. I applaud the move by the GOP in their attempt to bring attention to this run away spending train.
    I’d have greater concern if they just said, “We agree with all this excessive spending and let’s raise the debt ceiling to 30 trillion so we don’t have to worry about this for anohter year or two. This will allow us to do some REAL Spending.”

    • John Greenberg :

      “Government revenues as a % of GDP are at an all-time high.” Not even close.

      For fiscal years 2009-2012, revenues have been between 15.1% & 15.9%. They are estimated to rise to 18.9% by 2018. Revenues were 19% or above in 1944-45, 1952, 1970, 1980-82, & 1997-2001.

      The suggestion that we have a “runaway” spending train is also belied by the facts. As a percentage of GDP, current spending is down quite considerably from the WWII years, and has, in fact, declined since President Obama took office and is expected to continue to do so. http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/us_20th_century_chart.html

      The same is true for the federal deficit, which is expected to continue declining for the next several years, according to CBO forecasts. http://www.cbo.gov/publication/44172

      • Dan Carver :

        Let’s talk about reverse logic.
        When you say “…the federal deficit, which is expected to continue to decline…”
        This indicates we are in a budget surplus position. If true, then why would we need to raise the debt ceiling? The amount of deficit run each year is forecasted to be lower, but that is political fun with numbers–like Shummy promising lower utility rates with the closure of VY.

        Agree. My all-time high was incorrect, but the 1997 – 2001 period was due to the dot.com boom, which I had mentioned in the earleir post. All other time frames you provided are over 30 years ago!

        • John Greenberg :

          “When you say “…the federal deficit, which is expected to continue to decline…”
          This indicates we are in a budget surplus position.”

          It indicates nothing of the kind. The budget continues to be in deficit. Next year, the deficit is expected to be lower than this year. The year after that, lower still.

          “The amount of deficit run each year is forecasted to be lower, but that is political fun with numbers …” First, the forecast of future deficits isn’t mine; it’s the Congressional Budget Office’s. Second, you ignore the word continue. The federal deficit in 2009 was $1841.19 billion; 2010, $1258.44; 2011, $929.41; 2012, $557.42; 2013, $512.32. Get it? Going down.

      • Keith Stern :

        Do you understand that the numbers you are citing don’t mean a lot because the GDP is down? Our economy is stagnant, wages have been mostly stagnant for decades when you factor in inflation.
        You want true indicators? How about that about 70% of new hires this year are part time. How about there has been a balloon in people on government assistance? How about many companies ending fulltime help?
        The truth is that approximately 7 trillion dollars has accumulated in just 51/2 years, debt that can not ever be paid down. The Fed is keeping the economy limping along by quantitative easing, the 3rd time doing so in 5 years.
        Don’t be fooled by statistics, look at the true picture.

        • John Greenberg :

          “Do you understand that the numbers you are citing don’t mean a lot because the GDP is down?”

          GDP isn’t down. In 2009, it was $14,417,900; in 2012, it was $15,470,700 (in real dollars). Since the economy continues to grow, albeit slowly, it will be higher this year.

          “You want true indicators?” I want ACCURATE indicators.

          Is that too much too ask?

          • Keith Stern :

            What are your “real dollars” you are talking about. Our devalued dollar? And the biggest reason the GDP is up is food and fuel costs I believe you’ll find. We have no robust economy causing the GDP to expand.
            You don’t want accurate indicators, you want tweaked statistics showing that Obama is doing a good job. The truth is he isn’t and the economy limps along. When 70% of the jobs created are part time that is nothing to celebrate unless one is struggling to find anything at all to brag about.

          • John Greenberg :

            “Real” dollars is an economic term-of-art which means dollars adjusted for inflation. It is used as a supplement to “nominal” dollars.

            Had I used nominal dollars, your complaint would be correct: all of the increase might be due to inflation (or, put differently, to the effective devaluation of the dollar itself). Adjusting nominal dollars is intended to insure that the change is, as the name implies, real, rather than simply the effect of changes in the currency.

            As far as I know, these 2 sets of figures have been around as long as the figures have (basically since WWII). Economists have long been aware that inflation is an important issue for macro-economic data. What I’m certain of, in any case, is that they’ve been around since Ronald Reagan was president, which is when I first began paying serious attention to these figures.
            These are not “tweaked statistics.” They’re the raw data used by every practicing economist, including conservatives and supply-siders. They are, in effect, the “gold standard” statistics of fiscal data.

          • Nick Wilson :


            John is showing you the numbers do not support your beliefs.

            Your unwillingness to acknowledge this just serves to further demonstrate that you do not understand the situation.

  4. Todd Taylor :

    Congratulations to Senator Leahy for serving nearly 40 years in Washington. A short trip down memory lane tells us the US National Debt when he went to DC was a paltry $475 Billion. All these years later, our distinguished Senior Senator has helped considerably to raise our National Debt to a staggering $17 Trillion. Might help if he actually read the bills he signed.

    • Keith Stern :

      But at least he won’t have to deal with what our children have to look forward to.

    • Lee Russ :

      You know, if take $475 billion and assume a 5% increase per year, that gets you to over $3 trillion. If you add in the estimated $2 trillion that we’ve spent already on Iraq and Afghanistan, that gets you to over $5 trillion.

      If you add in the decreased federal revenue from the series of tax cuts over the last 15 years or so, the lost tax revenue from treating investment brokers income as all capital gains…….

      • Keith Stern :

        Please. Overspending is the reason, pure and simple. Add unfunded pensions and the debt balloons.

        • Lee Russ :

          Again, that’s your opinion. Mine differs.

          I wish we had a good, in-depth, and reliable analysis of the all the relevant numbers to be able to make an educated stab at developing good policy.

          I find it hard to believe that the tax cuts during foreign wars did not play a serious role in our economic condition, and I’m still waiting for an honest analysis from anyone about how the loss of employment to undeveloped and underdeveloped countries has affected us.

          • Keith Stern :

            Lee good luck getting anything honest from the government. How about that pallet of money they “lost” ? What do you think happened to it? I believe it went to fund something the citizens would never approved of.

          • Nick Wilson :


            Regardless of what your belief systems tell you, unfunded tax cuts are a significant driver of our long term debt and the current deficit.

            I know that, since this conflicts with your religious views on the subject, you will refuse to accept it.

            It is still true.

          • Keith Stern :

            You are right and that is where the politicians have failed. When they pass tax cuts they should also offset the loss with spending cuts but that is not in a politician’s DNA apparently.
            An estimated 100-200 billion dollars in government duplication and overlaps. Not enough to solve the deficit issue but something that should be looked at but it is ignored.
            I proposed Congress set up a spending reduction committee made up of FORMER politicians from both parties and others from the private sector to look at the waste in government and present their findings to Congress, of which 75% had to be accepted.
            I sent it to Boehner, Rand Paul, and one other whose name escapes me now. Of course they wouldn’t accept my idea because it was simple and effective. Instead they implemented their own committee that turned out to be completely ineffective.

  5. Lee Russ :

    You know that 1974 was the low point for the debt to GDP ration since WWII. I assume you know that debt to GDP exceeded 100% during the WWII era.

    But the big thing I’d like to know is why you think that tells us anything about the respective roles of spending and cutting revenue. Both increase the debt.



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