On Wednesday, March 9, 2016, Presidential Democratic candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Mrs. Hillary Clinton met at Miami-Dade College (Miami, FL) for another debate. As usual, claims were made that do not match the facts. Here are a few.
Mrs. Clinton stated that she voted for a bill that provided money to bail out the auto industry. A bill that, she pointed out, Senator Sanders voted against. Senator Sanders countered that the bill: “was the bailout of the recklessness, irresponsible and illegal behavior of Wall Street.”
Of course, at a time when each and every bill is subject to a multiplicity of attachments, claims of voting for or against any particular bill may be eye-raising on the surface but is really much more complex than it appears. The bill Mrs. Clinton and Senator Sanders sparred over is a perfect example.
This particular bill provided $700 Billion (that’s with a “B”) to bail out big banks after subprime loans started souring and the US economy went into a tailspin. Some of that money was later used by the federal government to bail out both GM and Chrysler (Ford Motor was the only one not to seek federal assistance). However, while it appears that Mrs. Clinton voted for the auto industry bailout and Senator Sanders voted against it, the fact is that neither one (and surely most of the others Senators) knew that, at the time of the vote, part of the $700 Billions would be diverted to the auto industry. What’s more, when voting came up to divert the money to the auto industry, both voted for it. However, in January 2009, shortly before Mr. Obama became President, lawmakers tried to block the release of a second tranche of money to rescue big banks which had been previously approved. At that point, and knowing that some of that money would be diverted to the auto industry, Senator Sanders voted in favor of blocking this second tranche.
Mrs. Clinton claimed that Senator Sanders: “stood with the Minutemen vigilantes in their ridiculous, absurd efforts to, quote, hunt down immigrants.” Senator Sanders replied: “No, I do not support vigilantes, and that is a horrific statement, an unfair statement to make.” For the record, the Minutemen was a group of armed civilians, some with automatic rifles with magazines holding vast amounts of ammunition, patrolling part of the US-Mexico border looking for people crossing illegally. They were often accompanied by Neo-Nazis and White supremacists.
Though Mrs. Clinton was right about Senator Sanders’ vote, she greatly exaggerated. As a member of the House and while running for the Senate, then Representative Sanders voted in favor of what was largely a symbolic amendment seeking to prohibit the federal government from providing information about the Minutemen to foreign governments. At the time, some hard-liners thought that federal government officials were providing this information to their counterparts in Mexico. According to Senator Sanders this was an unimportant amendment to a “must pass” bill that was: “supported by dozens and dozens of members of the House which codified existing legislation.” The amendment did not pass and was largely forgotten, except by Mrs. Clinton. This provides a good example of a politician voting for something they do not like or perhaps even given much thought, in order to achieve the larger goals of a bill.
Mrs. Clinton claimed that she voted for an immigration reform bill in 2007: “when Ted Kennedy led the charge on comprehensive immigration reform. We had Republican support. We had a president willing to sign it.” She further claimed that Senator Sanders voted against it.
Again, while correct in her affirmation that Senator Sanders voted against that particular immigration reform bill, it is a large gap to claim that he is against immigration reform in general. In fact, according to Senator Sanders he was opposed to the bill because it was: “described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the important institutions in this country who studies these issues, as guest-worker programs akin to slavery… They were cheated. They were abused. They were humiliated.” However, Senator Sanders failed to mention that his opposition was also driven by the concern of labor unions which feared that temporary workers would drive down wages and eliminate American jobs (though few Americans are known to want to work harvesting crops and washing dishes).
Mrs. Clinton defended her use of private emails, now under investigation by the FBI, claiming that: “it was not prohibited. It was not in any way disallowed… I did not send or receive any emails marked classified at the time… I asked all my emails to be made public.” It is, in fact, correct that, back in 2009 when she began using a private server to send and receive emails, this was not prohibited by law. However, the State Department, of which she was the head, warned employees against the use of private emails for government business since these are thought to be less secure than government servers and hence more likely to be hacked and compromise classified information. In fact, in the more than 55,000 pages of Mrs. Clinton’s emails to the State Department, hundreds have been censored as containing classified material. It should also be noted that Mrs. Clinton released her emails only after her staff had gone through all of them and withheld those deemed personal. That is usually a task reserved to federal record specialists.
Politically unbiased yours,