Senator Bernie Sanders told "Axios on HBO" he opposes the efforts by Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to bring back SALT, the State and Local Tax deduction that benefits wealthier residents of blue states.
Why it matters: There's a dispute among Democrats over whether to use President Biden's infrastructure negotiations to reinstate a popular tax break capped by former President Trump.
- Republicans could exploit the issue as they try to move their own party's reputation away from corporatism to appeal to the working class.
Driving the news: "It sends a terrible, terrible message when you have Republicans telling us that this is a tax break for the rich," Sanders, of Vermont, said in an interview from Louisville, Kentucky, where he participated in a May 2 rally.
- "In fairness to Schumer and Pelosi, it is hard when you have tiny margins, but you have got to make it clear which side you are on — and you can't be on the side of the wealthy and powerful if you're going to really fight for working families."
- Biden did not include a SALT reinstatement in his infrastructure announcement. But some blue state Democrats are eager to force it into the bill. Sanders sees it as a bad move for a party that is supposed to represent the working class.
The big picture: Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats and ran twice for president as a Democrat, agonizes over the failures of Democrats in poorer red states like Kentucky.
- In Kentucky, Amy McGrath spent more than $90 million in her failed bid to defeat Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell. Her campaign outspent the GOP leader's by some $30 million but he beat her by nearly 20 percentage points in November.
- Sanders says it's unsustainable for the Democratic Party to keep losing non-college educated voters. He believes the party can do better by selling simple economic programs that directly benefit the working poor.
- "The Democrats over the years have become more and more of a corporate party and have turned their backs on the working class of this country," he said. "You're an average white worker in America, for example, what have you seen the Democrats do to stand with you?
- "It is imperative that we educate the American people about what government can, in fact, do for them."
Between the lines: Sanders is appealing for simplicity and tangible actions voters can easily understand: sending checks, extending unemployment insurance, providing affordable child care and free college. He's encouraged by Biden's early steps.
- Mimicking how a reluctant voter might feel, Sanders said, "Oh you hate Democrats? They're terrible. They're awful. Oh, yeah. I just got $5600 for a husband and wife and two kids....
- "Oh, I hate those Democrats. Oh, by the way, they extended my unemployment to September with a $300 supplement. Oh, by the way, make it easier for me to raise my kids. And now my kids are going to be able to go to good free summer programs and after-school programs..."
- Sanders feels President Obama should have gotten more electoral reward for the health coverage protections in the Affordable Care Act in 2010 that helped millions of voters but that it was complicated to understand and easy for political opponents to confuse voters about. In the 2012 presidential election, Obama not only lost in Kentucky; he did worse there than he did in 2008.