On Saturday night the Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill and sent it to the President for signature. In addition to funding most of the Federal government through next September, the bill contained riders that caused senators such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to wage a strong fight against it. According to news reports, President Obama, Vice President Biden and even Secretary of State Kerry were obliged to work the telephones to rally support for the bill.
The most discussed rider, said to have been written by Citigroup lobbyists, would weaken the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory act by allowing banks to trade certain risky instruments while having access to Federal support if their speculations go wrong. Senator Warren called this “… a vote for future taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street.” Senator Sanders announced that, in view of Congress’ unwillingness to supervise big banks, he would introduce legislation to break up “too big to fail” banks.
Senator Sanders also called attention to a provision in the bill that would allow multi-employer pension plans to reduce benefits. The Vermont senator said that this would allow cutting benefits to workers who had toiled all their lives to gain security in old age.
The Congressional confrontation with White House and with corporate Democrats followed a week of political ferment among Democratic progressives. MoveOn.Org announced that it would raise $1 million to help their effort to persuade Senator Warren to run in the Democratic presidential primaries. On Friday 300 former Obama campaign staffers called on Warren to run, saying: “Rising inequality is the challenge of our times, and we want someone who will stand up for working families and take on Wall Street banks and special interests that took down our economy.”
A Bernie Sanders support group announced that he would go to Iowa on December 16th for a series of speeches and meetings with labor and progressive activists. The announcement said that he would discuss “…the 40-year decline of the middle class, growing income and wealth inequality in the United States and his 12-point Economic Agenda for America…”