In a Final Act, Can Bernie Sanders Make Senate Hearings a Catalyst for Left Populism?Breaking News
tags: Senate, progressivism, populism, Bernie Sanders
In two unsuccessful bids for the White House, Senator Bernie Sanders made no secret of his disdain for billionaires. Now, in what could be his final act in Washington, he has the power to summon them to testify before Congress — and he has a few corporate executives in his sights.
One is Stéphane Bancel, the chief executive of Moderna, who Mr. Sanders complains “has become a multibillionaire” by developing a coronavirus vaccine with government money. “I think Mr. Bancel should be talking to his advisers about what he might say to the United States Senate,” Mr. Sanders warned in an interview.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, and Howard Schultz, the on-and-off chief executive of Starbucks, are also on his list. He views them as union busters whose companies have resorted to “really vicious and illegal” tactics to keep workers from organizing. He has already demanded that Mr. Schultz testify at a hearing in March.
Mr. Sanders, independent of Vermont, can put these men on the spot because he is the new chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The job gives him sweeping jurisdiction over issues that have animated his rise in politics, such as access to health care, the high cost of prescription drugs and workers’ rights.
Mr. Sanders, 81, who identifies as a democratic socialist, has said he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president again if President Biden runs for re-election — a position he reiterated in a recent interview in his Senate office. He is himself up for re-election in 2024 and would not say whether he would run again, which raises the prospect that the next two years in Congress could be his last.
Mr. Sanders is clearly operating on two tracks. Last week, in a move that might surprise critics who view him as unbending, he partnered with a Republican, Senator Mike Braun of Indiana, to call on rail companies to offer seven days of paid sick leave to their workers — a provision that the Senate defeated last year when it passed legislation to avert a rail strike.
But he also sent a curt letter to Mr. Schultz, giving him until Tuesday to respond confirming his attendance at the hearing. That followed an earlier, angry letter in which Mr. Sanders urged the Starbucks chief to “immediately halt your aggressive and illegal union busting campaign.” A Starbucks spokesman said the company was considering the request for Mr. Schultz to testify and was working to “offer clarifying information” about its labor practices.