Sen. Bernie Sanders slammed congressional Republicans’ health care plan on Tuesday during the keynote address at a New York college commencement ceremony, but has fallen short on a health care promise of his own.
Sanders, I-Vt., who received an honorary degree from CUNY's Brooklyn College, spoke in familiar campaign rhetoric at the commencement ceremony, blasting Republicans’ health care plan, the American Health Care Act, which passed the House of Representatives last month and is currently awaiting action in the Senate.
He also took aim at the Trump administration’s budget proposal, which was introduced last week, and the president's tax plan.
“The Republican leadership wants to throw 23 million Americans off of health insurance, cut Medicaid by over $800 million, cut food stamps, defund Planned Parenthood, cut Head Start and after-school programs, and make drastic cuts in Pell Grants and programs that help working-class kids to be able to go to college,” Sanders said. “And unbelievably, at the exact same time they are throwing people off of health care, they have the chutzpah to provide $300 million in tax breaks to the top 1 percent.”
“Chutzpah” is a Yiddish word meaning “supreme self-confidence” or “nerve.”
“Working-class and middle-class families are struggling,” Sanders said. “Cuts to life-and-death programs that could mean survival, or not survival, for those families.”
Sanders added: “We are going to bring health care for all as a right, not a privilege.”
Sanders, for his part, promised Vermont constituents at a town hall in March that he would introduce a single-payer health care plan “within a few weeks,” but has yet to introduce any such legislation. A spokesperson from Sanders' office told Fox News that they are working on the bill and plan to roll out the legislation “this summer.”
“That’s the best timeline I can give right now,” the spokesperson told Fox News in an email.
Sanders in his speech again brought up the issue of tuition-free colleges and universities, and reducing student loan debt, but painted a grim picture for the Brooklyn College graduates, saying we face a “serious crises”: “You know, and I know, these are tough times for our country.”
“We live in an oligarchic community,” Sanders told the graduates. “We have a corrupt political system which is undermining American democracy and it’s important we talk about that and understand that.”
Sanders told the graduates that their role in the future of the U.S. is “moral.”
“The issues we deal with today: economic issues, social issues, racial issues, environmental issues – not only impact your lives, but they impact the lives of future generations,” Sanders said. “You do not have a moral right to turn your back on saving this planet and saving future generations.”
He added: “The only real response we can make is to stand up and fight back, reclaim American democracy, and create a government that works for all of us -- not just the 1 percent.”
Before Sanders took the podium, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also made remarks at the Brooklyn College commencement, referring to this era of “fake news.”
“The Internet has put so much information at your fingertips, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what’s important,” Schumer said. “And to distinguish what’s true, and what isn’t.”