The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, that aired on “Face the Nation” on September 3, 2023.
ROBERT COSTA: And we now go to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is joining us from Burlington. Good morning, Senator Sanders, we appreciate you being here.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Morning, Bob.
ROBERT COSTA: Senator, President Biden is touting the latest jobs numbers, but your recent speech in New Hampshire painted a bleak picture of the nation’s economic reality. When you met with President Biden at the White House in recent days, what exactly did you tell him, Senator? And did you warn him, like you warned in New Hampshire, that, quote, ‘Democrats must reject the corporate wing of the party?’
SEN. SANDERS: Well, Bob, what I have said publicly, time and again, is that President Biden and his administration have made some real progress in addressing issues that have not been dealt- dealt with in decades. We finally took on the pharmaceutical industry, and we’re beginning to make some progress in lowering the cost of prescription drugs, a lot more has to be done. After years of talk, we finally invested in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, roads, bridges, water systems. Manufacturing is coming back in America. So, I think we’re making some progress, but everybody knows that for decades now, not just under Biden, not just under Trump, but for decades now, what we have seen in America is an economy in which the very, very wealthy are doing phenomenally well while working families are struggling. Today, Bob, we don’t talk about it much, we have more income and wealth inequality than we have ever had in the history of the United States. This is way before Biden. But what we’re seeing now is 60 percent of our people living paycheck to paycheck, we have a health care system which is totally broken, we pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. We’ve got 18 million households, where people are spending 50 percent of their income trying to pay the rent or pay a mortgage. So, we have some structural problems in America. The Biden administration has made some progress, we have got a long way to go. And what the Democratic Party has got to do is have the guts to take on corporate greed, which is unprecedented, all over the economy. The people who own the large corporations have enjoyed record breaking profits, we got to create an economy that works for all, not just a few.
ROBERT COSTA: Senator, you met with the President, you discussed these issues. You just heard from Ambassador Haley, she was attacking Vice President Harris. Are Democrats doing enough to support vice president Harris and she faces these kinds of attacks?
SEN. SANDERS: Well, I think the issue is, are Democrats doing enough to win back a working class, which is leaving the Democratic Party? And what in my view Democrats have got to do is say, “Really? Do you really want to vote for a Republican Party, which wants to cut Social Security, we got to expand Social Security. Wants to cut Medicare, we have got to expand Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision. We got a Republican Party out there that doesn’t even recognize the reality of climate change.’ So I think, Bob, what this campaign is going to- should be about is a contrast between the ideas that work for the working families of this country, and what the Republicans stand for, which is more tax breaks for billionaires and paying allegiance to the needs of corporate America, not ordinary Americans.
ROBERT COSTA: But is the administration doing enough? I listened closely to your speech in New Hampshire. The administration’s recently taken action on marijuana, for example. But should it do more with executive power? It’s taken action on prescription drug negotiations with Medicare. But should it do more? I mean, you- you’re out there saying they should be tougher–
SEN. SANDERS: And the answer is yes. Bob, the answer is yes, it should. Some of it can be done through executive orders, a lot can be done through legislation. And what I think has got to happen, this is my own view, is I think, what the President has got to say, is give me 50, at least 50 Democrats in the Senate. Give me control over the House of Representatives and by 50 Democrats, I mean, real Democrats, not corporate Democrats, like Manchin and Sinema. And if you do that, within two or three months, we’re going to reform health care to move it toward a system which guarantees health care to all people, not just huge profits for the insurance companies. We’re going to lower the cost of prescription drugs, so we’re not paying any more than the rest of the world. We’re going to rebuild our economy, to work for ordinary people, and I think that’s got to be the message. Contrast, a progressive agenda for working people versus a Republican agenda.
ROBERT COSTA: Senator, I know you don’t like to talk politics, but you’re the one who went to New Hampshire, an early primary state you’ve done very well in over the years. You support President Biden 100 percent, you’ve made that clear, but for any reason, if President Biden decides not to seek the Democratic nomination, is a run by Senator Sanders for the nomination on the table next year?
SEN. SANDERS: Bob, I think we spend too much time speculating. I think President Biden is going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party and I think if he runs on a strong, progressive agenda, he’s not only going to win, he’s going to win by a strong vote and I’ll tell you why. Because when you look at a Republican Party, it’s not only that you have a president, a former president, who has been impeached twice, indicted four times. These are people who deny women in this country have the right to control their own bodies, really? Is that where we are in 2023? Not recognizing the reality of climate change, wanting more tax breaks for billionaires, that’s what their agenda is. So I think that in any kind of serious campaign, President Biden and the Democrats will do quite well against that reactionary agenda.
ROBERT COSTA: What do you- what do you say, Senator, though, to some of your longtime supporters, who are frustrated because they don’t believe the Biden administration’s done enough? They may not share your view of how things have gone. And they’re thinking about Cornel West, or they’re thinking about Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. What’s your message to them as they drift toward those others?
SEN. SANDERS: Well, my message to them is that we are living in an unprecedented moment in American history. Donald Trump is not only a pathological liar, has not only helped wage an insurrection, if you like, to prevent President Biden from taking office. Not only is denying American democracy, moving against the American democracy. So I think at this moment, Bob, we have got to bring the progressive community together to say, you know what, we’re gonna fight for a progressive agenda. But we cannot have four more years of Donald Trump in the White House.
ROBERT COSTA: Do you worry about the progressive vote, staying home?
SEN. SANDERS: I think if the Democrats come up with a strong agenda that speaks to the needs of senior citizens in this country, and that means raising Social Security benefits, expanding Medicare, if we speak to the needs of young people that is having a lot to do with student debt, if we demand that the wealthiest people in this country stop paying their fair share of taxes, if we come up with a progressive agenda, I think we’re going to win and win big. And when we win big, we have to make it clear that we stand with the working class of this country against the kind of corporate greed that we now see.
ROBERT COSTA: Senator quickly, you are also the chairman of the Senate Health and Labor Committee. Progressives voters are looking to you as well for action. You’re investigating Amazon warehouses right now. Are you committed to issuing a subpoena for Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon to come testify or not?
SEN. SANDERS: Well, we’re gonna pick one step at a time. Right now, what we’re working on Bob, is major reforms in primary health care. We don’t have enough doctors, nurses, dentists, mental health providers in this country. We’re working hard on legislation to do that. We brought Mr. Schultz from Starbucks before the committee, we are looking at Amazon and we’ll take it one step at a time, but certainly have no fears. You know, at the appropriate time they may well do that.
ROBERT COSTA: Thank you very much. Senator Sanders. We appreciate you taking the time on a Sunday morning, Face the Nation. We’ll be back in one minute. Stay with us.