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Sen. Bernie Sanders Talks for 8 Hours to Protest Tax-Cut Deal

4 years ago
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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders embarked on a marathon speech on the Senate floor Friday in protest of the tax-cut proposal President Obama struck with Republican leaders this week.

Sanders is an independent, but he caucuses with the Democrats and is known as one of the most liberal members of the upper chamber. Hours after Obama announced his compromise package to extend the Bush tax cuts Monday night, Sanders warned that he would "do whatever I can" to stop the legislation from passing the Senate, including mounting a filibuster of the bill.

The agreement that Obama announced Monday night would extend for two years the Bush tax cuts for all earners, while also continuing current tax rates on dividends and capital gains. In addition, the estate tax, which expired in 2009, would be temporarily set at 35 percent with a $5 million exemption, and extended unemployment benefits would continue for 13 months. Obama also said that negotiators had agreed to a one-year, 2-percentage point cut in the payroll tax for all workers.

Sanders began his speech just before 10:30 a.m. Friday and opened by saying he did not want to create a scene.

"I'm not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle," Sanders said. "I am simply here today to take as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact that we have got to do a lot better than this agreement provides."

But Sanders quickly became a Washington spectacle nonetheless, as his speech was quickly dubbed "the Filibernie" and Capitol tourists filed into the Senate chamber's visitors' gallery to get a glimpse of him holding forth on the shortcomings of the tax-cut package. Within hours, a website had launched at

Under the Senate rules, Sanders could take sips of water during his speech, but could nor eat or sit down. Instead, he stood throughout his eight-and-a-half-hour talkathon, and was joined twice by other senators, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who have also raised objections to the deal the president negotiated.

Sanders' speech was not technically a filibuster, because the Senate has not yet moved to vote on the bill, but the action played out like a scene from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," with the habitually disheveled Sanders reading newspaper articles, telling anecdotes about his time as mayor of Burlington, Vt., and railing against what he said was the grossly unfair nature of the tax-cut deal.

In addition to picking apart details of the bill, like the payroll tax holiday and the new estate tax rates, Sanders railed against the wealthy in the country. "How much more do they want? How much more do they need?" he asked rhetorically. He later compared needed infrastructure in the country to dental work. ("It's like having a cavity. You can wait to get your cavity filled, as I have, and then you have to get a root canal later.") He apologized to those listening to his speech if he repeated stories.

After nearly nine hours, he concluded, "We can defeat this proposal and come up with one that is fairer to the middle class and fairer to our children."

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Brigid Daughter

Bernie Sanders is my hero.

December 16 2010 at 11:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bernie would have made more ground if he would have been talking about a plan to make cuts in the wastefull spending the greedy goverment cannot seem to get under control which is there duty.

December 13 2010 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One American family will benfit from the Estate Tax change by 32 Billion dollars. That is larger then the GNP of 159 countries in the world. That's how bad the difference between the rich and the middle class has gotten since this "exeriment in conservatism" nonsense was sold like fertilizer to the people.

December 13 2010 at 9:25 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

When we had a tax rate of 90% there were more deductions that could be claimed and as the rates have been reduced so have the deductions you could claim. With a 90% rate there was no incentive to work after you had reached your basic needs. The taxes were cut spending cuts were to follow but this never happened just more spending. More people now depend on the government for some form of help than at any time in the history of this Country. Thus we have created a seperate voting class only looking out for what they can obtain from the system.

December 11 2010 at 4:08 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply


December 11 2010 at 4:00 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

The people of this country refuse to believe we have a revenue problem and always suggest its all about too much spending! Get a grip people since reagan we have been taxed less than ever! Although spending continues and many programs, such as defense never seem to have any kind of spending cap, the real problem stems from the people at the top of the income ladder. When people talk about the "good old days" they seem to forget that the top tax rate under President Eisenhower was 91% on income over 3.2 million dollars.....please tell me whats wrong with that scenario? Jobs were being created in this country and the rich were still rich...

December 11 2010 at 3:10 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to dmspeno's comment

Bernie, a true American Hero,

December 11 2010 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is sad times for U S history & politics. The entire system needs an overall. We need a new lease on politicians. Clean house! Fire all groomers that hang around to teach the incoming elected to all the same dirty tricks & games. Childish games that are making our country the fools that they are will be our demise. We have lost our love for fellow man. This is the one way street.

December 11 2010 at 12:49 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tcatgeralds's comment

yes, we do need an overall OVERHAUL!

December 11 2010 at 2:36 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

this bill has been damaged by the spending amendments attached to it so it needs to be voted down. I listened to four hours of his filibuster and I must say his remarks on how NAFTA and the trade deals ruined this country's manufacturing base, those who lobby to send all our jobs abroad, was what I have been saying the for the last ten years. It was refreshing to hear a senator actually know that the reduction of tariffs to zero allowed America to be a dumping ground for foreign goods (Sanders you were wrong on the death tax though).

December 11 2010 at 12:44 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dc walker's comment

The unions are what destroyed our manufacturing.

December 11 2010 at 7:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Bernie needs to reread the Declaration of Independence. Government derives it powers from the consent of the governed. By the same token, government spends and taxes from the consent of the governed. If people believe that government taxes too much and spends too much, then the goverment must cut both.

December 11 2010 at 11:49 AM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply

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