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Sanders blames Trump for pandemic’s ‘unprecedented suffering’

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden released new policy proposals Tuesday aimed at addressing the climate crisis. The plans were informed by a task force put together by former Biden competitor Sen. Bernie Sanders, and they represent a progressive shift for Biden. But will the ideological evolution be enough to win over Sanders supporters? Sanders joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Today, former Vice President Joe Biden released new policy proposals aimed at the climate crisis. His $2 trillion plan will increase the use of renewable energy, and it includes a goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.

    Here's what the former vice president said in a speech in Delaware:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden:

    I know that climate change is a challenge that's going to define our America's future. I know meeting the challenge will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to jolt new life into our economy, strengthen our global leadership, protect our planet for future generations.

    If I have the honor of being elected president, we're not just going to tinker around the edges. We're going to make historic investments that will seize the opportunity and meet this moment in history.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    These policy proposals were formed in part by joint task forces created to unify the Democratic Party. They were put together by Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who joins me now.

    Senator Sanders, welcome back to the "NewsHour," and thanks for being with us.

    I want to ask you about your team's efforts to move the Biden campaign and the Biden team platform a little bit further to the left. As we just mentioned, you did get him to move up that timeline to commit to 100 percent clean electricity. But it's not the Green New Deal.

    You did get him to commit to a government-run public health care option. But it's not Medicare for all. So, those were key campaign issues for you.

    Do you think these policies are enough for your backers to want to back Biden?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Well, given that the alternative is Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country, I'm absolutely confident that those proposals are not only a significant step forward, but are going to win widespread support from the progressive community.

    What Joe Biden understands is that, in order to win this election — and I'm going to do everything I can to see that he does win it — we're going to need a large voter turnout.

    And to get a large voter turnout, there has to be energy and excitement among younger people, among working-class people, among people who very often who do not vote, for a variety of reasons.

    And I think what our task force has managed to do is to reach compromises which are going to bring a lot more excitement to a sector of the voting population that was less enthusiastic about Joe.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Can I ask you, Senator, are you worried those compromises could temper some of that excitement or enthusiasm that you say Mr. Biden needs?

    I mean, there's already been some criticism, even from your former national press secretary, who said that the Biden team was showing — quote — "mocking disrespect" for voters with these kinds of plans.

    What do you say to people who have concerns that these plans don't go far enough?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Well, I will tell you, I don't think they go far enough.

    And the people who are on representing the progressive community on the task forces don't think these proposals go far enough. But the answer is to elect Joe Biden, and then to strengthen our grassroots movement to make sure that, in all respects, the environment, the economy, health care, we have a government that represents all of us, and not just the few.

    But I think it is very hard for anybody to seriously look at these proposals, whether it is on health care, whether it's on the environment or climate change, whether it's on education, whether it's in the economy, and not to see that, if these proposals were to be implemented, Joe Biden would be the most progressive president since FDR.

    It's a significant step forward, but, in truth, it's not all that I would like.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Senator, as you know, during this pandemic, voters' top issues have shifted somewhat. Things like health care, immigration, even climate change have moved further down the list. Obviously, the coronavirus and the pandemic response and the economy have moved to the top.

    So, as Congress is now considering another spending plan, I want to ask you, how big do you think it should be? And what do you say to people who are concerned that, the bigger that response gets, the more it's going to push America into the red?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Look, this is what I say. And that is that we are living in an unprecedented moment in American history.

    We have a pandemic, because — and, because of Trump's ineptitude and downplaying this pandemic from day one, is getting worse in many states in this country; 135,000 people have already died. And that number will grow in months to come.

    We have an economy which has lost tens of millions of jobs. Today in Vermont and throughout this country, people are hungry. By the millions, people are worried about being evicted. People in many cases have lost their health insurance.

    We have got to stand up and represent the working families of this country, who are seeing today more desperation than they have seen in many, many decades.

    And the alternative to not becoming aggressive is to see, in my view, not only unbelievable human suffering, but to see this economy head straightforward into a Great Depression.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Senator, to that point, how big do you think that that next spending plan should be, then?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Well, the House passed its bill for $3 trillion. And I think the Senate should do at least as much.

    We are seeing now unprecedented suffering in this country. We have tens of millions of people who've lost their jobs. Many have lost their health care. There are people in my state of Vermont, throughout this country who today are worried about feeding their families. People are worried about being evicted from their homes.

    This is America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world. Now is the time to stand with working families.

    And let me just say this. If we don't do that, not only are we going to see an increase in suffering and death. What we're also going to see is this country plunging, in my view, into the worst economic decline since the Great Depression.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Senator, less than a minute left.

    I have to ask you. As we look back to 2016, it's worth pointing out that most of your supporters back then did end up voting for Hillary Clinton, but more than a quarter did not. In fact, I met many of them even earlier this primary season who described themselves as Bernie or bust, right? They weren't sure that they were going to vote for the Democratic nominee if it wasn't you.

    I wonder, do you think now that selecting a running mate who is more progressive, like Elizabeth Warren, would help Mr. Biden to win over some of those supporters?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Well, I think that the Biden campaign, they're very good politicians.

    And I think they understand that they need a vice president who not only will have the right politics for Joe Biden, but as somebody he is personally compatible with. I think, when you're dealing with the vice president, there has got to be a lot of personal chemistry.

    And that's a decision, I'm sure, that Joe and his team are looking very hard at right now.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders joining us tonight.

    Thank you so much for your time, sir.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    My pleasure. Thank you.

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