Sanders in Pittsburgh: Biden ‘Opens the door for us to move forward’

  • Chris Potter/WESA

(Pittsburgh)–Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid got a boost in western Pennsylvania from a one-time rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, this weekend. Sanders, a democratic socialist and political independent, espouses more ambitious policies on issues like the environment and healthcare, but said he and Biden have the same immediate goal: defeating the man Sanders called  “the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country,” as well as a “pathological liar.”

“We cannot continue to have a president who does not believe in science,” Sanders said of President Donald Trump in a WESA interview, noting that reports of new coronavirus infections are now reaching new peaks nationwide.

Sanders said he and Biden also agreed “that right now, especially in the midst of this pandemic, the working class of this country is in more desperation probably than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Sanders was visiting Pittsburgh to boost Biden’s efforts in southwestern Pennsylvania, a critical battleground in the crucial swing state. The visit that included get-out-the-vote stops with progressive local politicians at the Carrie Furnace site in Rankin and a satellite election office in Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has sought to simultaneously link Biden to Sanders — insisting that the vice president would be a captive to his party’s left wing — and drive a wedge between them. (“You just lost the left,” he proclaimed after Biden sought to distance himself from some progressive policies during the first presidential debate.) Meanwhile, Trump has made his own claim on Sanders’ base: During rallies in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, Trump has asserted that he drew support from Sanders fans in 2016 because Trump and Sanders shared hostility toward trade deals.

Sanders predicted Saturday that such gambits wouldn’t help Trump this time.

“It’s a big country and I’m sure people will vote in various ways,” he said. “But I would say that … 95, 98 percent of the people who supported me are going to be voting for Joe Biden.”

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you that he and I agree on all the issues,” he added. “But I think with Joe Biden as president, it opens the door for us to begin to move this country forward.”

Sanders ticked off a number of areas where he and Biden shared a similar agenda, including more than doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, providing paid family and medical leave, and rebuilding infrastructure.

”Do we have other disagreements? We do. And in the United States Senate, I’ll fight for what I believe. And, you know, we’ll see how things turn out.”

Sanders has been said to have his eye on a cabinet position, with Secretary of Labor at the top of his list. He merely laughed when asked whether he’d be referred to as “Mr. Secretary” on his next visit to Pittsburgh — but he seemed intent that Biden make a place for voices like his.

“The progressive movement in this country is an important part of the Democratic Party,” he said. “I would hope and expect that the Biden administration will acknowledge that by appointing strong progressives to important positions in his administration.”

Biden must, of course, win the election first. And while the polls would seem to favor Democrats in Pennsylvania and nationwide, the party will likely suffer a stinging setback next week, as Senate Republicans appear all but certain to confirm the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Biden, after playing coy about the idea of expanding the Supreme Court beyond 9 members to offset Trump’s appointments, is calling for a commission to review the judicial appointment process.

Sanders himself expressed wariness of court expansion during the Democratic primaries, suggesting an alternative mechanism that would rotate federal judges into and out of the court. On Saturday, Sanders said the time for discussing such proposals was at hand.

“I think the American people are catching on that the Supreme Court is a very political body right now, and it’s at this moment controlled by conservatives,” Sanders said. “So I think Biden is not wrong in thinking about how we begin a national discussion about the judiciary.”

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