Legislative Landmarks

The Almanac of American Politics called Sen. Bernie Sanders a “practical” and “successful legislator.” In the House, he was dubbed the “amendment king” for passing more roll-call amendments than any other member. “He accomplishes this on the one hand by being relentlessly active and on the other by using his status as an independent to form left-right coalitions,” Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone. As the veterans committee chairman, Sanders was able “to bridge Washington’s toxic partisan divide and cut one of the most significant deals in years,” Humberto Sanchez wrote for Congressional Quarterly.

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Landmark legislation was passed in 2014 to help the Department of Veterans Affairs serve America’s aging population of veterans and to meet the needs of a new generation of men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, Sanders steered the bill through Congress. The legislation (H.R. 3230) passed the Senate 93-3 after passing the House 265-160 and was signed by President Obama on Aug. 7, 2014. The law included $5 billion for the VA to hire more doctors and other health care professionals. Sanders commitment to veterans has a long history. In 1998, he worked with Rep. Chris Shays to pass a bill to care for illnesses afflicting Gulf War veterans.


The War in Iraq

Sanders voted against the Bush-Cheney war in Iraq. The House on Oct. 11, 2002, voted 293-133 for the resolution (H.J. Res. 1149) authorizing military force. The war, which dragged on for nine years, was one of the worst foreign policy fiascoes in modern American history and fomented the Islamic State terrorist group that plagues the Middle East today.

The War in Afghanistan

Sanders was in the 420-1 House majority on Sept. 14, 2001, in voting for a resolution (H.J. RES 64) authorizing the use of force against the country which harbored those responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As the longest war in U.S. history dragged on, Sanders supported the withdrawal of U.S. troops, which finally ended combat operations in the country in 2014.


The First Gulf War

Sanders voted against the resolution (H.J. RES 77) authorizing U.S. military action in the Persian Gulf War when it passed the House by a vote of 250-183 on Jan. 12, 1991.

The USA Patriot Act

The post-9/11 law gave the National Security Agency broad new surveillance powers that the NSA abused to sweep up millions of email and telephone records without search warrants. “All of us want to protect the American people from terrorist attacks but in a way that does not undermine basic freedoms,” Sanders, a "no" vote, said on Oct. 24, 2001, when the surveillance law (H.R. 3162) first passed the House 357-66. He voted against renewing the law (S. 2271) on March 7, 2006, when reauthorization passed 280-138. In the Senate, he voted against extending the PATRIOT Act (S. 990) on May 26, 2011, when the extension passed 72-23.

Wall Street Deregulation

Less than a decade before the 2008 Wall Street financial crisis that caused the Great Recession, Sanders voted against a bill (S. 900) that undid decades of financial regulations enacted after the Great Depression. Over Sanders’ opposition, the House passed the deregulation bill 362-57 on Nov. 4, 1999. “This legislation,” he had predicted, “will lead to fewer banks and financial service providers, increased charges and fees for individual consumers and small businesses, diminished credit for rural America and taxpayer exposure to potential losses should a financial conglomerate fail. It will lead to more mega-mergers, a small number of corporations dominating the financial service industry and further concentration of power in our country.”


Big Banks

Sanders in 2013 proposed legislation to break up “too-big-to-fail” banks, which today have more assets and control more of the economy than before taxpayer bailed them out in 2008. Wall Street bankers have blocked the bill. The bankers lost a battle in 2009, however, when Sanders in 2009 reached across the aisle to work with Senator Charles Grassley to amend (S.A. 306) a bill to prevent banks that took taxpayer bailouts from replacing laid-off U.S. workers with lower-paid foreign workers.


Free Credit Reports

The House on November 2, 2003, passed legislation (H.R.2622) authored by Sanders (original bill) to provide all Americans with one free credit report per year. The bill became law (Public Law No: 108-159) on Dec. 4, 2003.


Tax breaks for the wealthy and profitable corporations were passed by Congress, over Sanders’ opposition, during the administration of President George W. Bush. The loss of revenue was a major reason that Bush amassed big deficits after inheriting a big budget surplus. Sanders voted against the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act when the House passed it (H.R. 1836) by a vote of 230-197 in 2001. He voted no when the House passed the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (H.R. 2) by a vote of 222-203. When the tax breaks were set to expire in 2010, Sanders delivered an 8 ½ hour Senate floor speech against extending the tax cuts for the rich. The Senate, however, voted 81-19 (H.R. 4853) to keep the tax breaks in place. Finally, two years later, Sanders prevailed. On New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2013, he voted with the 90-8 Senate majority on (H.R. 8) to end the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent of American wage earners. Sanders has proposed a progressive tax package to close corporate loopholes and to help balance the budget by making the wealthy pay their fair share.

The Fed

A first-ever audit of the Federal Reserve revealed eye-popping details of how $16 trillion in near zero-interest loans went to banks and businesses in the U.S. and abroad in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse. The audit (GAO-11-696) was required by a Sanders amendment to the 2010 Wall Street reform bill.


Trade Policy

As a result of a series of disastrous trade deals, nearly 60,000 American factories have been shuttered since 2001 and millions of good-paying  jobs have shifted to low-wage nations overseas. The House voted 234-200 on Nov. 17, 1993, for the North American Free Trade Agreement (H.R. 3450). Sanders voted no. He later voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (H.R. 3045) when it was passed by the House on July 8, 2005, by a vote of 217-215. He also voted against establishing permanent normal trade relations with China when that resolution (H.R. 4444) was passed the House by a vote of 237-197 on May 24, 2000. He is now leading the fight against a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.


Middle-Class Jobs

Sanders has called for a $1 trillion, five-year investment in rebuilding America’s crumbling roads, bridges, railroads and other projects. In addition to repairing the nation’s infrastructure, the investment would support 13 million good-paying jobs.

Youth Jobs

On June 21, 2013, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill that included a $1.5 billion amendment authored by Sen. Sanders to create at least 400,000 jobs for young Americans aged 16-24.

Medicare for All

Sanders is the leading Senate proponent of moving to a universal, single-payer health care system to provide better care at less cost for all Americans. An amendment (S.Amdt.2837 to S.Amdt.2786) by Sanders, which would have brought the United States into line with every other major nation, was blocked by Senate Republicans during debate in 2009 on the Affordable Care Act.

Prescription Drugs

Sanders has stood up to the insurance industry and pharmaceutical companies whose profits make health care in the United States much more expensive and much less effective than other major nations.  As a congressman, Sanders took a busload of breast cancer patients from Vermont to Canada so they could buy cheaper prescription drugs.

Community Health Centers

Sanders secured $12.5 billion in the Affordable Care Act to dramatically expand access to community health centers. The law (H.R. 3590) passed on March 25, 2010, authorized funds to expand the centers that provide primary care, dental care, low-cost prescription drugs and mental health counseling for more than 25 million Americans. Another $1.5 billion went to the National Health Service Corps to provide scholarships and help repay loans for doctors and nurses who practice in underserved communities. In December of 2009, at the urging of Sanders, President Obama signed a memorandum dedicating $600 million to the construction of new community health centers. “I also want to thank the many members of Congress who are with us today both in the audience and up on the stage, particularly Bernie Sanders and Representative Jim Clyburn,” Obama said at the time. “We are grateful for all that you've done.”


Cancer Registries

Congress in 1992 passed legislation that created the National Program of Cancer Registries. A Reader’s Digest article by Dr. John H. Healey of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center called the legislation “the cancer weapon America needs most.” There are registries now in all 50 states that help researchers gain valuable information. It was the first bill by Sanders to become law (P.L. 102-505).


Saving Social Security

Sanders helped rally a powerful coalition of seniors, women, veterans, labor unions and disabled Americans to stop a 2013 proposal to cut Social Security and disabled veterans’ benefits. A year after broaching the idea of changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are made, the White House backed off the idea to cut benefits by revising how the consumer price index is calculated. Sanders has a plan to expand benefits provided by the retirement system, which has a $2.8 trillion surplus and has not contributed to the deficit.



Sanders led the effort to protect the pensions of older workers.  When the Bush administration proposed a rule allowing companies to cut the pensions of older workers by as much as 50 percent, the House passed an amendment to prevent this rule from being implemented.  Sanders also passed an amendment to prevent the Bush administration from working to overturn a federal district court ruling that IBM’s pension cuts violated age discrimination laws.  This amendment helped 130,000 IBM workers regain $320 million in pension benefits that had been taken away from them. 

Global Warming

Sanders was the lead sponsor of a bill to tax carbon and methane emissions that cause climate change. It’s an idea that is drawing increased support from environmentalists and economists. The bill was called the “gold standard” on climate change legislation by Sen. Barbara Boxer. The environment committee chairman co-sponsored Sanders’ measure when it was introduced on Feb. 14, 2013. “It is time for Congress to catch up with the scientific community and with the rest of the country, acknowledge the severity of the climate change crisis, and take bold action to reduce carbon emissions and leave a habitable planet for our grandchildren,” Sanders said.


Energy Efficiency Block Grants

Sanders wrote legislation to create an energy efficiency block grant program which passed into law as part of a broad energy bill on December 19, 2007. He secured $3.2 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2007 to fund the grants that reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. The program to date has funded upgrades for more than 86,000 buildings, installed more than 9,500 solar energy systems and, in the process, created or saved thousands of good-paying jobs.

Keystone XL

Sanders has been in the forefront of opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring some of the dirtiest oil on the planet from Canada’s tar sands region in Alberta to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. He voted against a bill that would require the approval of the pipeline.

Home Heating Help

As home heating bills skyrocketed in 2008, Sanders led the effort to double the funding of an energy assistance program. On Sep. 27, 2008, the Senate passed legislation by a vote of 78-12 that included a Sanders’ provision to double funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This program makes sure that millions of Americans won’t go cold in the winter by providing them with financial assistance to pay their heating bills. During an earlier spike in home heating prices, Sanders led the effort to establish a Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve to mitigate price spikes and supply disruptions.

Marriage Equality

The House passed the Defense of Marriage Act (H.R. 3396) by a vote of 342-67 on July 12, 1996. Sanders voted against the law which denied federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married in Vermont and other states. Sanders signed a friend-of-the-court brief urging justices to throw out the law, which the Supreme Court did in a landmark ruling in 2013.

Saving the Postal Service

Sanders has fought to keep post offices and mail sorting centers from being closed and to maintain six-day delivery. He has led resistance in Congress to cuts that Sanders said would send the mail delivery service into a death spiral. The Senate in 2012 passed legislation with Sanders provisions to modernize the Postal Service, but the Republican-controlled House refused to consider the bill.

Dairy Farms

Farmers were being forced off land that had been in their families for generations during the depths of a crisis in the late 1990s, when huge dairy conglomerates drove down prices they paid farmers. The Senate voted 60-37 on Aug. 4, 2009, for a Sanders amendment (S.Amdt. 2276 to S.Amdt. 1908 to H.R. 2997) to an appropriations bill (H.R. 2997) that was signed into law. It provided $350 million to help struggling dairy farmers survive.


Citizens United

How campaigns are financed impacts every major issue before Congress. For years, oil companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, Wall Street bankers and other powerful institutions formed committees that bankrolled candidates for Congress. The situation took a disastrous turn for the worse in 2010, when the Supreme Court struck down decades-old campaign finance laws and opened the floodgates for corporations and wealthy individuals like the Koch brothers to spend unlimited and undisclosed amounts of money on campaigns. To undo that ruling, Sanders cosponsored a constitutional amendment (S.J. Res. 19) that was brought before the Senate. After four days of debate, however, Senate Republicans on Sept. 11, 2014, blocked the amendment. “I am extremely disappointed that not one Republican voted today to stop billionaires from buying elections and undermining American democracy,” Sanders said.