Sen. Sanders on raising corporate and wealth taxes, combating climate change

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee released a proposal Monday that helps pay for most of President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending bill. In addition to raising the corporate tax rate on businesses making $5 million in income, the plan also includes taxes for wealthy individuals. Judy Woodruff discusses with the Chairman of the Budget Committee, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported earlier, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee released a proposal today that would help pay for most of President Biden's $3.5 trillion spending bill.

    In addition to raising the corporate tax rate on businesses making $5 million in income to 26.5, the plan also includes a 3 percent surtax on wealthy Americans making over $5 million a year and a top tax rate of 39.6 percent on couples earning more than $450,000.

    For more on all of this, I'm joined by the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders. He is leading the effort behind the massive bill.

    Senator Sanders, welcome back to the "NewsHour." It's very good to see you.

    And let me ask you about what we are seeing from the House tax-writing committee, the Ways and Means Committee; $2.2 trillion over 10 years is what they have so far laid out. It's a lot of money, but it's well short of what President Biden was looking for. What is your take?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT):

    Well, I think we will probably do a lot better in the Senate.

    The bottom line, as I think every American knows, is that, in our country today, the people on top, the 1 percent, large corporations are doing extremely well. And what we are seeing is that, in any given year, you have multibillionaires who are not paying a nickel in federal income taxes. That's true for many large, profitable corporations.

    So I think what the American people are quite clear on, I'm quite clear on, now is the time to demand that the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations start paying their fair share of taxes. My hope is that we will pay completely for this $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, as we mentioned, one of the things they're proposing is to raise the top corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 26.5 percent, raising the capital gains tax rate to as high as 31.3 percent for the very wealthy.

    That's less than the top rate for earned income. Is that acceptable to you?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Well, we will see what the Senate Finance Committee does.

    But my general view is that, at a time of massive and growing income and wealth inequality, when two people own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent, when the top 1 percent has more wealth than the bottom 92 percent, now is the time to ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share, so that we can begin to address the long-neglected needs of working families, in terms of our children, in terms of health care, in terms of the elderly, and, by the way, in terms of addressing the existential threat of climate change.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I know you're saying this has to go to the Senate Finance Committee, but let me just ask about one other element of this bill that the House committee looked at.

    And this is something that Senator Joe Manchin, who has problems with the overall spending bill, he said he accepts this, and that's extending the child tax credit, which has taken a lot of families out of poverty. The difference, though, is that he said it should be limited to the poor and middle-income Americans, not to families earning as much as $400,000 a year.

    How do you see that?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Look, what I believe is that, in the richest country, in the history of the world, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost major country on Earth.

    And what we should all be very proud of is that, in terms of the American Rescue Plan, what we did, Judy — and this is — this tells you what good policy can do — through the direct payments that went to working-class families and that $300-a-month payment to working parents, we have reduced childhood poverty in this country by over 50 percent.

    That is pretty good. And we have got to make sure that this approach, this direct payment to working parents, continues, because, if we do not, if we do not pass a reconciliation bill, that ends in December, and that would be an absolute shame.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, for the overall spending bill, $3.5 trillion, I know you, President Biden and many others are saying it's absolutely necessary.

    But you have now got several members of your own party, Senator Sanders, who are saying it's just too much, among them, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. It doesn't look right now as if you have got the votes to get that $3.5 trillion passed.

    Are you prepared to compromise?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Well, I have compromised, Judy.

    The truth of the matter is, I brought forth a budget for $6 trillion. And we need every penny of that, by the way, if we are going to deal with the extraordinary crisis facing this planet in terms of climate change, and have the United States lead the world in transforming our energy system.

    I compromised. I took that 6 — and by the way, that $6 trillion budget, I would say, had the support of at least 80 percent of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate. It was what people wanted. I compromised. We took it down to $3.5 trillion.

    But what you're looking at right now is a budget and a set of proposals, whether it's expanding child care, expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eyeglasses, making sure that pre-K in America is free and universal, ending the absurdity that we are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave, building the housing that we need, and, by the way, when you do all these things, creating millions, many millions of good-paying jobs.

    This is a popular idea. It is supported widely by working-class Americans, whether you're Democrat, Republican or independent. That is the approach, I think, that has got to be finalized.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But, Senator, my point is, you not only have blanket Republican opposition. They're calling it a socialist wish list.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    At least Senator McConnell is. But you also have Democrats, as I just mentioned, Senator Manchin and others, who are worried this is too much. They talk about inflation. They talk about how much government money has gone out the door during this COVID pandemic.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Well, look, we had a similar problem in terms of passing the American Rescue Plan, which, as you will recall, ended up being passed, I think, at 4:00 in the morning, with the vice president casting the deciding vote.

    I think…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You think Senator Manchin will come around?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Look, I think that, at the end of the day — and, by the way, everybody has a problem with this bill. I have problems with the bill.

    So we're working 24/7 trying to resolve everybody's problem. But if you're asking me, at the end of the day, do I think the Democratic Caucus will turn its back on the needs of working families, turn its back on the unbelievable crisis we face in terms of climate change, no, I do not believe we will turn our back.

    I think we will resolve it, we will come together, and we will pass, by the way, this — not only this $3.5 trillion. This $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, as you know, is tied together with this $550 billion physical infrastructure bill.

    And I hope very much that we can pass both.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Final, very quickly, different subject.

    Newest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in a speech yesterday in Kentucky, Senator Sanders, said that, contrary to what some believe, the court is not driven by partisanship. She said: We're not a bunch of partisan hacks. We are driven by judicial philosophies.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Well, I — depending on how you — I don't consider them to be partisan political hacks.

    I think there is no question but that Donald Trump and other Republican presidents have appointed people who they felt would toe a very, very conservative line with regard to corporate needs, with regard to being anti-choice in terms of women's rights. That's what Republican presidents, including Trump, who appointed Ms. Barrett, have done.

    And that's the simple reality.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, you're saying they're not driven by their judicial philosophies?

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    No, I'm not saying that at all.

    I'm sure they believe that they are. But it's not an accident that Donald Trump happened to appoint them, and not somebody else.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, we thank you very much.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders:

    Thank you.

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