Sanders urges Dems to challenge – but not obstruct – Trump

Updated 7:18 AM EST, Tue January 10, 2017
02:08 - Source: CNN
Sen. Bernie Sanders town hall in two minutes

Story highlights

Sanders on CNN: "Where Trump has ideas that make sense that we can work with him on, I think we should'

Dems are increasingly reliant on progressives such as Sanders to set their message

Watch Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders participate in a town hall with CNN’s Chris Cuomo Monday at 9 pm ET.

(CNN) —  

Bernie Sanders said Senate Democratic leaders discussed Monday whether the party would flatly oppose any nomination President-elect Donald Trump makes to the Supreme Court.

At the same time, Sanders urged fellow Democrats against simply obstructing the incoming administration – demonstrating the difficulty progressives are having in deciding how to handle the incoming president.

Speaking at a town hall in Washington sponsored by CNN and moderated by Chris Cuomo, Sanders blasted Republicans for acting “shamefully and outrageously” by refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court last year. He suggested Democrats may not “do the right thing” and instead adopt the GOP’s tactics.

Meanwhile, Sanders, a Vermont senator and progressive favorite in the 2016 Democratic primary, acknowledged Obamacare has “problems.”

“But we damn well aren’t going to see it repealed and have no replacement there at all,” he said.

How the tables are turning on Obamacare

And he drew another clear line with Trump, saying: “I will tell you this: He ran a campaign whose cornerstone was bigotry. It was based on sexism, on racism, on xenophobia, and on that issue, I will not compromise.”

Still, Sanders said he hopes Democrats don’t use the “obstruct, obstruct, obstruct” tactics against Trump that congressional Republicans deployed against Obama.

“I don’t think that’s what we do,” Sanders said. “I think where Trump has ideas that make sense that we can work with him on, I think we should.”

Sanders wouldn’t say whether he would again seek the presidency in 2020. But said there’s one issue on which he would work with Trump: trade. Both railed against the North American Free Trade Agreement on the campaign trail and said they opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I believe we need a new trade policy. I believe we tell corporate America they’ve got to control their greed,” Sanders said. “Mr. Trump is prepared to sit down and work on a new trade policy which is based on fairness, not just on corporate greed, yes, I will be happy to work with him.”

Progressives prepare to fight

With Hillary Clinton defeated and Obama counting down his final days in office, Democrats are increasingly reliant on Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other leading progressives to set the party’s message – and pick its battles. Democrats face this challenge as they’re poised to lose all their levers of power in Washington.

Changes to Senate rules made when the party had the majority now mean its members can’t block any of Trump’s Cabinet nominees. Nor can Democrats stop the GOP push to repeal Obamacare using the same filibuster-avoiding budget rules Obama used to push the health reform law through Congress.

The party is also down to 17 of the nation’s 50 governor’s offices, and Republicans have full control of the legislatures in 32 states – realities that make it harder for Democrats to stop changes to voting access laws that have hurt the party.

Sanders said Democrats have lost support among working-class voters in part because the party joined Republicans in deregulating Wall Street and enacting massive trade deals. Doing that, and then claiming the mantle of the middle class, won’t work, he said.