Bernie Sanders Thinks 48 Senators Make a Majority
There are 100 members of the United States Senate.
Unlike in the House, where a simple majority rules everything, the math can get a little complicated in the Senate. There’s that pesky cloture rule that effectively means you need 60 votes to avoid a filibuster for a lot of things. Other times, a mere 50–50 tie is good enough—as long as you’ve got the vice president on your side to cast the tie-breaking vote.
But the one thing that you can never, ever do is pass legislation with 48 senators in support and 52 votes against. Because, again, there are 100 members of the United States Senate.
These are basic facts with which a longtime member of the country’s most prestigious legislative body should be well familiar. So when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), a member of the Senate since 2007, suggests that “two people” are somehow preventing 48 others from getting what they want, he’s not only demonstrating a lack of basic math skills (which, given Sanders’ role as the head of the Budget Committee, might explain a lot about America’s fiscal situation).
He’s also saying that he doesn’t quite understand how this whole democracy thing works. And even that wouldn’t be so bad if Sanders were a college professor or a plumber, but it is at least a little bit unsettling because Sanders happens to be one of the people that some Americans have chosen to represent them in a democratic form of government.
Yet Sanders keeps saying this. He tweeted it last week:
2 senators cannot be allowed to defeat what 48 senators and 210 House members want. We must stand with the working families of our country. We must combat climate change. We must delay passing the Infrastructure Bill until we pass a strong Reconciliation Bill.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 1, 2021
And he said it again on Wednesday afternoon, this time accusing “two senators” of trying to “sabotage” a bill that 48 others want.
RECONCILIATION: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says “it is really not playing fair” for two Senators to “sabotage” a bill that every other member of the Democratic party wants, although he accepts they may want to negotiate on some points in the bill. pic.twitter.com/YIAgL32h8A
— Forbes (@Forbes) October 6, 2021
In each case, the “two people” standing athwart Sanders’ warped version of democracy are Sens. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D–Ariz.). They have publically balked at the idea of supporting a $3.5 trillion spending binge due to concerns about the size of America’s national debt and the disconnect between how much the government spends and how much it collects in tax revenue.
If Manchin and Sinema cannot be convinced to vote for the package, however, it would not be two senators preventing 48 others from passing the reconciliation bill. It would be 52 senators opposing what 48 want.
Sanders probably knows this, of course. But the continued attempts to frame opposition to the reconciliation bill as some sort of anti-democratic plot against the rightful majority is revealing on a few different levels.
For one, it says something about how the progressive wing of the Democratic Party—for which Sanders is an apt avatar—views its ascendant position w
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