Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is encouraging Democrats to withhold support of any proposed Republican budget agreement unless it includes provisions to protect essential domestic programs and provides legal status to the children of undocumented workers, often known as "Dreamers."
Intense budget negotiations are taking place in Congress because the current funding bill for the government expires on Jan. 19.
Sanders, who is the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee, is urging Democrats to reject any agreement unless it contains three provisions.
The first is to preserve a bipartisan agreement to maintain parity between domestic and military spending.
"For every dollar we spend on the defense, we spend on the needs of working families. ... All of the needs that working families face have got to be addressed," said Sanders. “We just cannot continue to spend untold sums of money on the military."
The second provision would provide legal status for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or so-called "Dreamers."
These are children of undocumented workers who came to this country with their parents — about 800,000 of them registered for legal status under the Obama administration. This fall, the Trump administration announced plans to deport them.
“This is an issue that has got to be dealt with,” said Sanders. “This is one of the great moral issues of our time."
President Donald Trump has indicated a willingness to accept a plan to offer these children legal status as long as Congress allocates several billion dollars to help build a wall along the Mexican border.
Sanders says it makes sense to allocate more money for border security, but not for the wall — that's the third provision.
"The wall was a very, very sensible idea in the 15th century in China under the Ming Dynasty,” said Sanders. “The truth is that modern technology has come a very, very long way ... in being able to protect our border."
And Sanders says Republican leaders will be to blame if a government shutdown takes place.
“If there is not a budget agreement, I think that responsibility falls on their shoulders — they control the government,” said Sanders.
Sanders says he's cautiously optimistic that Republican leaders will incorporate the Democratic priorities in the upcoming budget agreement because the consequences of a government shutdown would be so severe.