Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has been appointed to a Senate and House Budget conference committee working on a long-term budget plan being devised in hopes of averting another government shutdown, the Huffington Post reported.
Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, is well-known as a supporter of traditional earned-benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as a self-described socialist. A long-term budget plan must be created by Dec. 13 in order to avert another government shutdown.
Sanders said in a statement
on his website that he is looking forward to working with colleagues from both parties to "end the absurdity of sequestration and to develop a budget which works for all Americans," and to develop an alternative to the stopgap, sequestration-level budget that Congress approved late Wednesday.
"In my view, it is imperative that this new budget helps us create the millions of jobs we desperately need and does not balance the budget on the backs of working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor,” Sanders said.
The budget committee group, led by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., and her House counterpart, Rep Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was formed as part of the deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, reports The Washington Post.
The committee's task is to work to reconcile differences between the separate budgets passed by the Senate and House earlier this year.
Sanders pointed out that the Senate budget protects Medicare, while the House version ends Medicare by providing coupons for private health insurance.
There are other significant differences in the budgets, Sanders said.
"Unlike the House budget, the Senate resolution does not repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would prevent more than 20 million Americans from getting health insurance," said Sanders. "The House version would eliminate grants for up to 1 million college students while the Senate plan protects Pell grants. The House version would kick up to 24 million Americans off of Medicaid while the Senate budget would protect their benefits. The Senate budget calls for new revenue while the House version would provide trillions of dollars in tax breaks mainly for the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations offset by increased taxes on the middle class."
The committee now includes Sanders and one other Independent senator, Angus King of Maine, both of whom caucus with Democrats. It also includes 14 Democrats and 14 Republicans. The group includes the entire Senate Budget Committee, of which Sanders is a member.
The talks will likely become contentious, The Post reports, as the sides remain far apart even after the government shutdown ended.
"Chairman Ryan knows I’m not going to vote for his budget," Murray said Thursday, while the committee was being announced. "I know that he’s not going to vote for mine. We’re going to find the two common — the common ground between our two budgets that we both can vote on. And that’s our goal.”
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