Bernie Sanders: Wikis


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Bernie Sanders

Assumed office 
January 3, 2007
Serving with Patrick Leahy
Preceded by Jim Jeffords

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's At-large district
In office
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Peter P. Smith
Succeeded by Peter Welch

In office
Preceded by Gordon Paquette
Succeeded by Peter Clavelle

Born September 8, 1941 (1941-09-08) (age 68)
New York City, New York
Political party Independent
Other political
Democratic (affliated non-member)
Progressive (affliated non-member)
Liberty Union
Spouse(s) Jane O'Meara
Children Levi Sanders
Residence Burlington, Vermont
Alma mater University of Chicago
Occupation Journalist, Carpenter
Religion Judaism

Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is the junior United States Senator from Vermont, elected on November 7, 2006. Before becoming Senator, Sanders represented Vermont's at-large district in the United States House of Representatives for 16 years.

Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist,[1] but because he does not belong to a formal political party, he appears as an independent on the ballot. He is the first person elected to the U.S. Senate to identify as a socialist.[2] Sanders caucuses with the Democratic Party and is counted as a Democrat for the purposes of committee assignments. He was also the only independent member of the House during much of his service there. He is one of two independent Senators in the 111th Congress, along with Joe Lieberman.


Early life

Sanders, the son of Jewish Polish immigrants to the United States, was born in Brooklyn. He graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn and later attended the University of Chicago, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964.[3] Sanders moved to Vermont in 1964 where he worked as a carpenter and journalist.[3]

Early political career

Sanders's political career began in 1971, when he joined the anti-Vietnam War Liberty Union Party in Vermont. Sanders was an unsuccessful Liberty Union candidate for election to the Senate in 1972 and 1974, as well as for governor of Vermont in 1972 and 1976. In his initial campaign, Sanders received only 2% of the vote, but his subsequent races for Senate and Governor were slightly more successful, his highest vote tally being 6%.

In 1979, Sanders resigned from the Liberty Union party and worked as a writer and the director of the non-profit American People's Historical Society. In 1981, at the suggestion of his friend Richard Sugarman, a religion professor at the University of Vermont, Sanders ran for mayor of Burlington and defeated six-term Democratic incumbent Gordon Paquette by 12 votes, in a four-way contest. (An independent candidate, Richard Bove, split the Democratic vote after losing the primary to Paquette).

Increasingly popular because of his successful revitalization of Burlington's downtown area, Sanders won three more terms, defeating both Democratic and Republican candidates. In his last run for mayor, in 1987, he defeated a candidate endorsed by both major parties.

During Sanders' first term, his supporters formed the Progressive Coalition, forerunner of the Vermont Progressive Party. The Progressives never held more than six seats on the 13-member city council, but held enough votes to keep the council from overriding Sanders's vetoes. Under Sanders, Burlington became the first city in the country to fund community-trust housing. His administration also sued the local cable television provider, and won considerably reduced rates and a substantial cash settlement.

Sanders ran for governor for the third time in 1986. He finished third with 14.5% of the vote – enough to deny incumbent Democrat Madeleine Kunin a majority; she was then elected by the state legislature pursuant to Vermont law. In 1988, when six-term incumbent Representative Jim Jeffords made a successful run for the Senate, Sanders ran for Jeffords's vacated seat in the House. Sanders narrowly lost to Peter P. Smith, the former lieutenant governor and the 1986 Republican candidate for governor. Sanders again ran against Smith in 1990. In an upset, he took 56% of the vote and defeated Smith by 16 points, becoming the first independent member of the House since 1950.

Sanders taught at Harvard University in 1989 and Hamilton College in 1991.


Sanders in 2006

Although relations between Sanders and House Democratic leadership were not always smooth, the Democrats never actively campaigned against Sanders after his first run for Congress as an independent. While Democratic candidates ran against him in every election except 1994 (when Sanders managed to win the Democrats' endorsement), they received little financial support.

Sanders was reelected seven times and was the longest-serving independent member of the House. Despite his independent status, he faced only one difficult contest. It came in 1994, in the midst of the Republican Revolution that swept Republicans into control of the Congress. In a year when many marginal seats fell to Republicans, Sanders managed a narrow three-point victory. In every other election, he has won at least 55% of the vote. In his last House campaign in 2004, Sanders took 69% to Republican Greg Parke's 24% and Democrat Larry Drown's 7%.

Sanders's lifetime legislative score from the AFL-CIO is 100%. As of 2006, he has a grade of "C-" from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Sanders voted against the Brady Bill and in favor of an NRA-supported bill to restrict lawsuits against gun manufacturers in 2005.[4] Sanders voted to abolish the so-called "marriage penalty" for taxes and also voted for a bill that sought to ban human cloning. Sanders has endorsed every Democratic nominee for president of the United States since 1992. Sanders is a co-founder of the House Progressive Caucus and chaired the grouping of mostly liberal Democrats for its first eight years.

Sanders voted against both resolutions authorizing the use of force against Iraq in 1991 and 2002, and opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But he later joined almost all of his colleagues in voting for a non-binding resolution expressing support for U.S. troops at the outset of the invasion, although he gave a floor speech criticizing the partisan nature of the resolution and the Bush administration's actions in the run-up to the war. In relation to the leak investigation involving Valerie Plame, on April 7, 2006, Sanders said, "The revelation that the president authorized the release of classified information in order to discredit an Iraq war critic should tell every member of Congress that the time is now for a serious investigation of how we got into the war in Iraq, and why Congress can no longer act as a rubber stamp for the president."[5] Sanders supports universal health care and opposes what he terms "unfettered" free trade,[6] which he argues deprives American workers of their jobs while exploiting foreign workers in sweatshop factories.

In June 2005, Sanders proposed an amendment to limit provisions that allow the government to obtain individuals' library and book-buying records. The amendment passed the House by a bipartisan majority, but was removed on November 4 that year by House-Senate negotiators, and never became law.[7] Sanders followed this vote on November 5, 2005, by voting against the Online Freedom of Speech Act, which would have exempted the Internet from the restrictions of the McCain-Feingold Bill.

In March 2006, after a series of resolutions calling for him to bring articles of impeachment against the president passed in various towns in Vermont, Sanders stated it would be impractical to impeach George W. Bush, given the "reality that the Republicans control the House and the Senate." Still, Sanders made no secret of his opposition to the Bush Administration, which he regularly attacked for cuts in social programs he supports.[8][9][10]

Sanders has also criticized Alan Greenspan. In June 2003, during a question-and-answer discussion with the then-Federal Reserve chairman, Sanders told Greenspan that he was concerned that Greenspan was "way out of touch" and "that you see your major function in your position as the need to represent the wealthy and large corporations."[11] Senator Sanders has maintained and warned 10 years ago that investment banks and commercial banks should remain as two separate entities.[12]

Republicans have attacked Sanders as "an ineffective extremist" for passing only one law and fifteen amendments in his eight terms in the House.[13][14] Sanders responded by saying that he had passed "the most floor amendments of any member of the House since 1996."[15] Former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean has stated that "Bernie Sanders votes with the Democrats 98 percent of the time."[16]

Senate campaign

Sanders had mentioned on several occasions that he would run for the Senate if Jeffords (with whom he has a longstanding friendship) were ever to retire, and entered the race on April 21, 2005, following Jeffords's announcement that he would not seek a fourth term. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, endorsed Sanders; Schumer's backing was critical, as it meant that any Democrat running against Sanders could not expect to receive any significant financial help on a national level.

Sanders was also endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and Democratic National Committee chairman and former Vermont governor Howard Dean. Dean said in May 2005 that he considered Sanders an ally who votes with House Democrats. Sen. Barack Obama also campaigned for Sanders in Vermont. Sanders entered into an agreement with the Democratic Party to be listed in their primary but to decline the nomination should he win, which he did easily.[17]

Speculation abounded that the state's popular Republican governor, Jim Douglas, would enter the race as well. Many pundits believed Douglas was the only Republican who could possibly defeat Sanders. However, on April 30, Douglas announced he would seek a third term as governor. In the view of many pundits, this effectively handed the open seat to Sanders.

Sen. Sanders consistently led his Republican challenger, businessman Richard Tarrant, by wide margins in polling. In the most expensive political campaign in Vermont's history,[18] Sanders defeated Tarrant by an approximately 2-to-1 margin in the 2006 midterm election. Many national media outlets (including CNN) projected Sanders the winner before any returns came in.

Sanders is only the third Senator from Vermont to caucus with the Democrats — following Jeffords and Patrick Leahy. He made a deal with the Democratic leadership similar to the one Jeffords made after Jeffords became an independent. In exchange for receiving the committee seats that would be available to him as a Democrat, Sanders votes with the Democrats on all procedural matters unless he asks permission of Majority Whip Richard Durbin. However, such a request is almost never made and is almost never granted. He is free to vote as he pleases on policy matters, but almost always votes with the Democrats.

Senate career

Sanders and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007 on January 15, 2007. The measure would have provided funding for R&D on geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide, set emissions standards for new vehicles and a renewable fuels requirement for gasoline beginning in 2016, established energy efficiency and renewable portfolio standards beginning in 2008 and low-carbon electric generation standards beginning in 2016 for electric utilities, and would have required periodic evaluations by the National Academy of Sciences to determine whether emissions targets are adequate.[19]

On September 24, 2008, Senator Sanders posted on his website a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson against the initial bailout proposal, drawing more than 8,000 citizen co-signers in the first 24 hours.[20] On January 26, 2009, Sanders and Democrats Robert Byrd, Russ Feingold and Tom Harkin were the sole majority members to vote against confirmation of Timothy Geithner to be United States Secretary of the Treasury.[21]


Committee assignments

Political Views

Senator Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist.[22] He is a staunch supporter of a single-payer universal health care system.[23] He is a strong advocate for renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and is a strong opponent of the United States current trade policy towards Latin America and China.[citation needed] Sanders has opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq from its start and voted against it in the House of Representatives.[24] He has called for a speedy withdrawal and increased veterans benefits.[citation needed] Sanders, a journalist, has also been a leader in calling for media reform and opposes increased concentration of media outlets.[25] He appeared in Orwell Rolls in His Grave and Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, two leading documentaries on the subject.[26] He warns about the dangers of global warming and supports clean energy.[27] Sanders has also called for an audit of the Federal Reserve, and has introduced a Senate companion bill to H.R. 1207.[28] He is a vocal supporter of gay rights, such as marriage, and of pro-choice legislation.[3]

Personal life

Sanders is married to Jane O'Meara, president of Burlington College, and has one son, Levi Sanders, from a previous marriage.[29] His brother, Larry Sanders, is a Green Party politician in Oxfordshire in England. His nephew, Jacob, is a former Oxford city councillor for the Green Party.

Sanders is one of two sitting U.S. Senators who went to James Madison High School in Brooklyn. Before becoming a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Sanders's roommate was Richard I. Sugarman, a professor at the University of Vermont. Coincidentally, the only other Independent currently serving in the U.S. Senate, Joe Lieberman (I-CT) shared a suite with Professor Sugarman when the two attended Yale University in the 1960s.[30]

Sanders has regular guest appearances on the Thom Hartmann radio program for the Friday segment "Brunch with Bernie".

Sanders also stars in his own weekly five-minute show, "Senator Sanders Unfiltered",[31] hosted online at, where he covers topics of the week and gives his perspective on hot-button issues.

Electoral history

Most recent election shown below. For a complete list see: Electoral History of Bernie Sanders

2006 United States Senate election, Vermont
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Independent Bernie Sanders 171,638 65.4 n/a
Republican Richard Tarrant 84,924 32.3 -33.2
Independent Cris Ericson 1,735 0.6 n/a
Green Craig Hill 1,536 0.5 n/a
Independent Peter D. Moss 1,518 0.5 n/a
Liberty Union Peter Diamondstone 801 0.3 -0.2
Write-ins 267 0.1 0
Majority 86,741 33.1
Turnout 262,419
Independent hold Swing


  1. ^
  2. ^ Borger, Julian (2006-11-08). "Democrats pile pressure on Bush as glitches hit US poll". Guardian.,,1942041,00.html. Retrieved 2006-11-08. 
  3. ^ a b c Leibovich, Mark (2007-01-21). "The Socialist Senator". The New York Times Magazine. The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  4. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 534". Office of the clerk, US House of Representatives. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  5. ^ Yost, Pete (2006-04-07). "Libby: Bush, Cheney OK’d leak campaign". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Message
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^'4791'
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ National Republican Senatorial Committee
  14. ^
  15. ^ » Bernie on GOP Hit List
  16. ^ Transcript for May 22 - Meet the Press, online at MSNBC -
  17. ^ "U.S. Senate: Tarrant-Sanders duel set". Burlington Free Press. 2006-09-12. Retrieved 2006-11-08. 
  18. ^ Ring, Wilson (2006-11-07). "Sanders, Welch are winners in Vermont". Boston Globe (Associated Press). Retrieved 2007-01-25. 
  19. ^ Climate Change Bills of the 110th Congress Environmental Defense, May 29, 2007.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Lerer, Lisa (2009-07-16). "Where's the outrage over AIG bonuses?". The Politico. Retrieved 2009-08-04. "Only a handful of members, including self-described democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), criticized Goldman’s payments and questioned whether the company also received additional government assistance through the Federal Reserve." 
  23. ^ Jaffe, Sarah (2009-07-14). "Sanders Schools McCain on Public Healthcare". The Nation. Retrieved 2009-08-04. "Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the Senate's fiercest advocates for real healthcare reform that puts Americans, not private insurance companies, first. Recently, Sanders told The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel, '[I]f you are serious about real healthcare reform, the only way to go is single-payer'" 
  24. ^ Michols, John (2002-10-10). "Many Dems Reject War Resolution". The Nation. Retrieved 2009-08-04. "The 126 Democrats who opposed the resolution were joined by one independent member, Vermont's Bernie Sanders, and six Republicans -- John Duncan of Tennessee; John Hostettler of Indiana; Amo Houghton of New York; Jim Leach of Iowa; Connie Morella of Maryland; and Ron Paul of Texas." 
  25. ^ Nichols, John; McEhsney, Robert W. (2003-07-03). "The Battle Over Media Ownership is Far From Over". Common Dreams NewsCenter. Retrieved 2009-08-04. "Members of Congress are finding they cannot avoid talking about media issues because people really are upset with what the FCC did, and with the broader issue of who controls the media," says U.S. Rep. Bernie Sander, I-Vermont, a leading critic of the FCC rule changes [removing limits on the ability of individual companies to dominate more than 35 percent of television communications and to prevent "cross-ownership" schemes that allow corporations to buy up primary newspapers, radio and television stations and cable and Internet services in a city.] and a champion of media reform in the public interest." 
  26. ^ "Vt. congressman interviewed for film". USA Today. 2004-07-26. Retrieved 2009-08-04. "Rep. Bernie Sanders has a burgeoning second job: movie star. Vermont's lone congressman is one of many legislators, journalists and media watchdogs interviewed for "Orwell Rolls in His Grave" by director Robert Pappas, and Robert Greenwald's latest film, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism." 
  27. ^ Totten, Shay (2007-01-15). "Sanders to push global warming legislation in Senate". Vermont Guardian. Retrieved 2009-08-04. "Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, said Monday he was making good on at least one of a handful of campaign promises — introducing a bill designed to cut U.S. contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade... Sanders added that construction of new power plants is “extraordinarily expensive” and he would prefer to see federal funding support used to expand the development of sustainable energy, as well as biofuels." 
  28. ^ Thrush, Glenn (2009-06-18). "Hill wants reins on Fed". The Politico (Yahoo! News). Retrieved 2009-08-04. "'I just think it will be very hard for members of Congress to go back to their constituents and say, "I’ve got $2.2 trillion of your money at risk and I don’t know where it’s going," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is pushing his own bill calling for names of banks aided under Fed lending programs." 
  29. ^
  30. ^ Scott MacKay (2006-08-06). "The fight of his life". The Providence Journal. 
  31. ^

External links

Official sites
Articles by Bernie Sanders
Articles about Bernie Sanders
Political offices
Preceded by
Gordon Paquette
Mayor of Burlington, Vermont
Succeeded by
Peter Clavelle
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Peter P. Smith
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's At-large congressional district

January 3, 1991 – January 3, 2007
Succeeded by
Peter Welch
United States Senate
Preceded by
Jim Jeffords
United States Senator (Class 1) from Vermont
January 4, 2007 – present
Served alongside: Patrick Leahy
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Ben Cardin
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Sherrod Brown


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