Official Senate portrait of Sanders
United States Senator
January 3, 2007
Serving with Patrick Leahy
|Preceded by||Jim Jeffords|
|Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs|
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Patty Murray|
|Succeeded by||Johnny Isakson|
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's At-large district
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Peter Plympton Smith|
|Succeeded by||Peter Welch|
|Mayor of Burlington|
April 6, 1981 – April 4, 1989
|Preceded by||Gordon Paquette|
|Succeeded by||Peter Clavelle|
September 8, 1941
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
(caucuses with Democrats in Senate)
|Liberty Union (1971–1979)|
Deborah Shiling (1964–1966)
Jane O'Meara Driscoll (1988–present)
Levi (with Susan Mott)
University of Chicago (B.A.)
Presidential campaign website
This article is part of a series about
U.S. Senator from Vermont
U.S. Representative for Vermont's At-large
Mayor of Burlington
Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is an American politician and the junior United States Senator from Vermont. The longest-serving independent in U.S. Congressional history, Sanders caucuses with the Democratic Party and has been the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee since January 2015. He is a candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Sanders was born and raised in the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1963, he participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. After settling in Vermont in 1968, Sanders ran unsuccessful third-party campaigns for governor and U.S. senator in the early to mid-1970s. As an independent, he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont's most populous city, in 1981. He was reelected three times before being elected to represent Vermont's at-large congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990. In 1991, Sanders co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He served as a congressman for 16 years before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. In 2012, he was reelected by a large margin, capturing almost 71% of the popular vote.
A self-described "democratic socialist", Sanders favors policies similar to those of social democratic parties in Europe, particularly those instituted by the Nordic countries. Sanders is known as a leading progressive voice on issues such as income inequality, universal healthcare, parental leave, climate change, LGBT rights, and campaign finance reform. He rose to national prominence following his 2010 filibuster against the proposed extension of the Bush tax cuts. He is outspoken on civil rights and civil liberties, and has been particularly critical of mass surveillance policies such as the USA PATRIOT Act, the NSA surveillance program, and racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. He has long been critical of U.S. foreign policy, and was an early and outspoken opponent of the Iraq War.
- Early life, education, and family 1
Early political career 2
- Liberty Union campaigns 2.1
- Mayor of Burlington 2.2
U.S. House of Representatives 3
- Elections 3.1
- Tenure 3.2
U.S. Senate 4
- Elections 4.1
- Budget 4.2.1
- Senate Budget Committee 4.2.2
- Committee assignments 4.2.3
- 2016 presidential campaign 5
- Political positions 6
- In popular culture 7
- See also 8
- References 9
- Further reading 10
- External links 11
Early life, education, and family
Sanders was born in Brooklyn, to Eli Sanders and Dorothy Glassberg. Eli Sanders was a Jewish immigrant from Poland whose family was killed in the Holocaust; Glassberg was born to Jewish parents in New York City. Sanders has said that he became interested in politics at an early age: "A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932 ... and 50 million people died as a result ... what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important."
Sanders attended elementary school at P.S. 197, where he won a state championship on the basketball team. He attended Hebrew school in the afternoons, and celebrated his bar mitzvah in 1954. Sanders attended James Madison High School, where he was captain of the track team. While at Madison, Sanders lost his first election, finishing last out of three candidates for the student body presidency. Sanders' mother died in June 1959 at the age of 46, shortly after Sanders graduated from high school.
Sanders studied at first civil rights sit-in in Chicago history. After weeks of sit-ins, Beadle and the university formed a commission to investigate discrimination. Sanders also participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That summer, he was found guilty of resisting arrest during a demonstration against segregation in Chicago's public schools and was fined $25.
In addition to his civil rights activism during the 1960s and 1970s, Sanders was active in several peace and antiwar movements. He was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Student Peace Union while attending the University of Chicago. Sanders applied for conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War; his application was eventually turned down, at which point he was too old to be drafted. Although he opposed the war, Sanders never placed any blame on those who fought and has been a strong supporter of veterans' benefits.
In 1964, Sanders graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor of arts degree in political science. He married Deborah Shiling and they bought a summer home in Vermont; they had no children and divorced in 1966. Over the next few years, he took various jobs in New York and Vermont and spent several months on an Israeli kibbutz. His son, Levi Sanders, was born in 1969 to Susan Campbell Mott. In 1988 Sanders married Jane (O'Meara) Driscoll, a former president of Burlington College, in Burlington, Vermont. With her he has three stepchildren, whom he considers his own.
Sanders' brother, Larry Sanders, lives in England. He was a Green Party county councillor representing the East Oxford division on Oxfordshire County Council, until he retired from the Council in 2013. Larry Sanders ran as a Green Party candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon in the 2015 British general election and came in fifth.
Sanders has said he is "proud to be Jewish" but "not particularly religious." Sanders' wife is Roman Catholic, and he has frequently expressed admiration for Pope Francis, saying that "the leader of the Catholic Church is raising profound issues. It is important that we listen to what he has said." Sanders often quotes Francis on economic issues and has described him as "incredibly smart and brave."
Early political career
Liberty Union campaigns
Sanders began his political career in 1971 as a member of the Liberty Union Party, which originated in the anti-war movement and the People's Party. He ran as the Liberty Union candidate for governor of Vermont in 1972 and 1976 and as a candidate for U.S. senator in 1972 and 1974. In the 1974 race, Sanders finished third (5,901 votes; 4.1%) behind the victor, 33-year-old Chittenden County State's Attorney Patrick Leahy (D, VI; 70,629 votes; 49.4%), and two-term incumbent U.S. Representative Dick Mallary (R; 66,223 votes; 46.3%). In 1979, Sanders resigned from the party and worked as a writer and the director of the nonprofit American People's Historical Society (APHS). While with the APHS, he made a 30-minute documentary about American Socialist leader and presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs.
Mayor of Burlington
In 1981, at the suggestion of his close friend Richard Sugarman, a professor of religion at the University of Vermont, Sanders ran for mayor of Burlington and defeated six-term Democratic incumbent Gordon Paquette by ten votes in a four-way contest. Sanders was reelected three times, defeating both Democratic and Republican candidates in successive elections. In his final run for mayor in 1987, Sanders defeated Paul Lafayette, a Democrat endorsed by both major parties.
During Sanders' first term, his supporters, including the first Citizens Party City Councilor Terry Bouricius, formed the Progressive Coalition, the forerunner of the Vermont Progressive Party. The Progressives never held more than six seats on the 13-member city council, but they had enough votes to keep the council from overriding Sanders' vetoes. Under Sanders, Burlington became the first city in the country to fund community-trust housing.
During the 1980s, Sanders was a staunch critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. In 1985, Burlington City Hall hosted a foreign policy speech by Noam Chomsky. In his introduction, Sanders praised Chomsky as "a very vocal and important voice in the wilderness of intellectual life in America" and said he was "delighted to welcome a person who I think we're all very proud of".
Sanders' administration balanced the city budget and drew a minor league baseball team, the Vermont Reds, to Burlington. Under Sanders' leadership, Burlington sued the local television cable franchise, winning reduced rates for customers.
Also during his mayoralty, Sanders released We Shall Overcome, an album of folk music.
As mayor, Sanders led extensive downtown revitalization projects. One of his signature achievements was the improvement of Burlington's Lake Champlain waterfront. In 1981, Sanders campaigned against the unpopular plans by Tony Pomerleau, a Burlington developer, to convert the then-industrial waterfront property owned by the Central Vermont Railway into expensive condominiums, hotels, and offices. Sanders ran under the slogan "Burlington is not for sale" and successfully supported a plan that redeveloped the waterfront area into a mixed-use district featuring housing, parks, and public space. Today, the waterfront area includes many parks and miles of public beach and bike paths, a boathouse, and a science center. Burlington is now considered one of the most livable cities in the nation. In 2015, Sanders officially launched his candidacy for President of the United States at Waterfront Park in Burlington.
After serving four terms, Sanders chose not to seek reelection in 1989. He briefly taught political science at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government that year and at Hamilton College in 1991.
U.S. House of Representatives
In 1988, incumbent Republican Congressman Jim Jeffords decided to run for the U.S. Senate, vacating the House seat representing Vermont's at-large congressional district. Republican Lieutenant Governor Peter P. Smith won the House election with a plurality, securing 41% of the vote. Sanders, who ran as an independent, placed second with 38% of the vote, while Democratic State Representative Paul N. Poirier placed third with 19% of the vote. Two years later, Sanders ran for the seat again and defeated the incumbent Smith by a margin of 56% to 40%.
Sanders was the first independent elected to the U.S. House of Representatives since Frazier Reams's election to represent Ohio 40 years earlier. He served as a Representative for 16 years, winning reelection by large margins except during the 1994 Republican Revolution, when he won by 3.3%, with 49.8% of the vote.
During his first year in the House, Sanders often alienated allies and colleagues with his criticism of both political parties as working primarily on behalf of the wealthy. In 1991, Sanders co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of mostly liberal Democrats that Sanders chaired for its first eight years.
In 1993, Sanders voted against the Brady Bill, which mandated federal background checks and imposed a waiting period on firearm purchasers in the United States; the bill passed by a vote of 238–187. In 2005, he voted for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The act's purpose was to prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes have been committed with their products. In 2015, Sanders defended his vote, saying: "If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with a gun, do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody over the head with a hammer."
Sanders voted against the Valerie Plame's identity by a State Department official, Sanders stated: "The revelation that the President authorized the release of classified information in order to discredit an Iraq war critic should tell every member of Congress that the time is now for a serious investigation of how we got into the war in Iraq and why Congress can no longer act as a rubber stamp for the President."
Sanders was a consistent critic of the Patriot Act. As a member of Congress, he voted against the original Patriot Act legislation. After its 357-to-66 passage in the House, Sanders sponsored and voted for several subsequent amendments and acts attempting to curtail its effects, and voted against each reauthorization. In June 2005, Sanders proposed an amendment to limit Patriot Act provisions that allow the government to obtain individuals' library and book-buying records. The amendment passed the House by a bipartisan majority but was removed on November 4 of that year in House-Senate negotiations and never became law.
In March 2006, after a series of resolutions passed in various Vermont towns calling for him to bring Bush Administration, which he regularly criticized for its cuts to social programs.
Sanders was a vocal critic of Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan; in June 2003, during a question-and-answer discussion with the then-Chairman, Sanders told Greenspan that he was concerned that Greenspan was "way out of touch" and "that you see your major function in your position as the need to represent the wealthy and large corporations". Sanders said in 1998 that investment banks and commercial banks should remain separate entities. In October 2008, after Sanders had been elected to the Senate, Greenspan admitted to Congress that his economic ideology was flawed.
Sanders entered the race for the U.S. Senate on April 21, 2005, after Senator Jim Jeffords announced that he would not seek a fourth term. Chuck Schumer, Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, endorsed Sanders, a critical move as it meant that no Democrat running against Sanders could expect to receive financial help from the party. Sanders was also endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Democratic National Committee Chairman and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Dean said in May 2005 that he considered Sanders an ally who "votes with the Democrats 98% of the time". Then-Senator Barack Obama also campaigned for Sanders in Vermont in March 2006. Sanders entered into an agreement with the Democratic Party, much as he had as a congressman, to be listed in their primary but to decline the nomination should he win, which he did.
In the most expensive political campaign in Vermont's history, Sanders defeated businessman Rich Tarrant by an approximately 2-to-1 margin. Many national media outlets projected Sanders as the winner before any returns came in. He was reelected in 2012 with 71% of the vote.
Polling conducted in August 2011 by Public Policy Polling found that Sanders' approval rating was 67% and his disapproval rating 28%, making him then the third-most popular senator in the country. Both the NAACP and the NHLA have given Sanders 100 percent voting scores during his tenure in the Senate.
On September 24, 2008, Sanders posted an open letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson decrying the initial bank bailout proposal; it drew more than 8,000 citizen cosigners in 24 hours. On January 26, 2009, Sanders and Democrats Robert Byrd, Russ Feingold, and Tom Harkin were the sole majority members to vote against confirming Timothy Geithner as United States Secretary of the Treasury.
On December 10, 2010, Sanders delivered an 8½-hour speech against the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, the proposed extension of the Bush-era tax rates that eventually became law, saying "Enough is enough! ... How many homes can you own?" (A long speech such as this is commonly known as a filibuster, but because it didn't block action, it was not technically a filibuster under Senate rules.) In response to the speech, hundreds of people signed online petitions urging Sanders to run in the 2012 presidential election, and pollsters began measuring his support in key primary states. Progressive activists such as Rabbi Michael Lerner and economist David Korten publicly voiced their support for a prospective Sanders run against President Barack Obama.
Sanders' speech was published in February 2011 by ABC's "This Week", Sanders responded: "I think we'll use Larry at our next rally. He does better than I do."
- Democratic Party presidential candidates, 2016
- Democratic Party (United States)
- Senate Democratic Caucus
- Electoral history of Bernie Sanders
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- "FAMILY VALUES AGENDA: PAID FAMILY LEAVE, PAID SICK LEAVE, PAID VACATION" (PDF). Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- Bernie Sanders (December 1, 2014). An Economic Agenda for America: 12 Steps Forward. The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
- Ned Resnikoff (October 6, 2015). Bernie Sanders proposes sweeping labor law reforms. Al Jazeera America. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
- Bernie Sanders at People's Climate March: To Stop Global Warming, Get Dirty Money Out of Politics. Democracy now! September 22, 2014.
- Ashley Halsey III (January 27, 2015).Bernie Sanders wants to spend $1 trillion on infrastruture. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- Sanders, Bernie (May 21, 2015). "The TPP Must Be Defeated". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- "Legislation – Campaign Finance: Bernie Sanders – U.S. Senator for Vermont". Senate.gov. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
- Sanders, Bernie (March 22, 2015). "If We Don't Overturn Citizens United, The Congress Will Become Paid Employees of the Billionaire Class".
- Issues: Racial Justice. BernieSanders.com. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- Bernie Sanders declares war on the prison-industrial complex with major new bill. Salon. September 17, 2015.
- Bernie Sanders (September 22, 2015). We Must End For-Profit Prisons. The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 23, 2015.
- Bernie Sanders Wants to Abolish the Death Penalty. Vice. October 30, 2015.
- Bernie Sanders Supports Ending Federal Marijuana Ban. Rolling Stone. October 28, 2015.
- Sanders, Bernie (May 7, 2015). "Break Up Big Banks". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- Everett, Burgess. "Bernie Sanders backs big bank breakups, in contrast with Hillary Clinton". Politico. Politico. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- Flashback: Rep. Bernie Sanders Opposes Iraq War Official Senate Site
- Krieg, Gregory (May 7, 2015). Bernie Sanders Rips NSA Spying and Pushes for End to Mass Surveillance. Mic.com. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- Lyons, Kim (April 29, 2015). "Bernie Sanders' Views on Gay Marriage Show He's Been a Supporter for a Long Time". Retrieved August 19, 2015.
- Lavender, Paige (July 29, 2015). "'"Bernie Sanders: GOP Efforts To Defund Planned Parenthood 'An Attack On Women's Health. The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
- ), NBC.comVideo"Democratic Debate Cold Open" (. Retrieved 2015-10-18
- Nicole Hensley - )Video"Larry David and Bernie Sanders are one and the same in 'SNL' cold open" (, NY Daily News, October 18, 2015. Retrieved October 18, 2015
- Andrew Husband - "Bernie Sanders Wants Larry David at Next Rally: 'He Does Better Than I Do'" (Video), Media-ITE, October 18, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-19
- Rice, Tom W. (Summer 1985). "Who Votes for a Socialist Mayor?: The Case of Burlington, Vermont". Polity (Palgrave Macmillan Journals) 17 (4): 795–806.
- Rosenfeld, Steven (1992). Making History in Vermont: The Election of a Socialist to Congress. Wakefield, NH: Hollowbrook Publishing.
- Soifer, Steven (1991). The Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont. Westport, CT: Praeger.
- Sanders, Bernie (2012). The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class. CreateSpace Independent Publishing.
- Sanders, Bernie (1998). Outsider in the House. Contributions by Huck Gutman. Verso.
- Official U.S. Senate Site
- Official Presidential Campaign Site
- FeelTheBern.org - detailed position descriptions compiled by volunteers
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at The Library of Congress
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Bernie Sanders at DMOZ
- Your online guide to Bernie Sanders. The Washington Post, April 30, 2015
- Bernie Sanders's channel on YouTube
Mayor of Burlington
|United States House of Representatives|
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's At-large congressional district
|Party political offices|
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Vermont
|United States Senate|
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Vermont
Served alongside: Patrick Leahy
Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
|United States order of precedence (ceremonial)|
United States Senators by seniority
In popular culture
Sanders has advocated for more democratic participation by citizens, campaign finance reform, and the overturn of Citizens United v. FEC. He has denounced institutional racism and called for criminal justice reform to reduce the number of people in prison, advocates a crackdown on police brutality, and supports abolishing private, for-profit prisons and the death penalty. Sanders supports legalizing marijuana at the federal level. He is also an advocate of comprehensive financial reforms and favors breaking up "too big to fail" financial institutions and restoring Glass–Steagall legislation. Sanders was a strong opponent of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has been critical of a number of policies instituted during the War on Terror, particularly mass surveillance and the USA PATRIOT Act. He takes a liberal approach to social issues, advocating for LGBT rights and lobbying against the Defense of Marriage Act and maintaining a pro-choice stance on abortion, as well as opposing the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist and progressive who admires the Nordic model of social democracy and is a proponent of workplace democracy. Many commentators have noted the consistency of his views throughout his political career. He focuses on economic issues such as income and wealth inequality, raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare, reducing the burden of student debt, making public colleges and universities tuition-free by taxing financial transactions, and expanding Social Security benefits by eliminating the cap on the payroll tax on all income above $250,000. Sanders has become a prominent supporter of laws requiring companies to provide their workers parental leave, sick leave, and vacation time, noting that such laws have been adopted by almost every developed country. He also supports legislation that would make it easier for workers to join or form a union. Sanders advocates bold action to reverse global warming and substantial investment in infrastructure, with "energy efficiency and sustainability" and job creation as prominent goals. He is opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Sanders' campaign events in June 2015 drew overflow crowds around the country, to his surprise. On July 1, 2015, Sanders' campaign stop in Madison, Wisconsin, drew the largest crowd of any 2016 presidential candidate to that date, with an estimated turnout of 10,000. On July 18, he drew an even larger crowd in Arizona, with an estimated turnout of over 11,000. On August 8, Sanders drew an estimated 15,000 in Seattle at the University of Washington's Hec Edmundson Pavilion. A day later, some 28,000 people attended a Sanders rally in Portland, Oregon. On September 14, 2015, Sanders spoke at Liberty University, a highly Republican-influenced college, during their Convocation. On September 18, 2015, the Sanders campaign posted a letter on its website from 128 artists and cultural leaders announcing their support for his candidacy.
On June 25, 2015, The New York Times noted that Sanders was "running right alongside [Clinton] in a statistical dead heat for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination" in the New Hampshire primaries, citing a CNN/WMUR poll. The Guardian pointed out that when Clinton and Sanders made public appearances within days of each other in Des Moines, Iowa, Sanders drew larger crowds, even though he had already made numerous stops around the state and Clinton's visit was her first in 2015. By September 2015, polls had Sanders leading Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and in one poll, he had climbed to within 10 percentage points of her nationally.
 Along with posting content on  Sanders has used social media to help his campaign gain momentum.
Unlike other presidential candidates, Sanders has stated that he will not pursue funding through a "Super PAC", instead focusing on small individual donations. Sanders' presidential campaign raised $1.5 million within 24 hours of his official announcement. After four days, Sanders' campaign had raised $3 million from small donors, with an average of $43 per donation. On July 2, the campaign announced that it had raised $15 million from 250,000 donors. On September 30, The New York Times reported that Sanders had raised $26 million over the preceding three months, exceeding Barack Obama's pace of fundraising in 2008; the campaign announced that it had reached one million individual donations, becoming the first 2016 candidate to reach that threshold.
) endorsed Sanders and rebranded itself "Ready to Fight". His entry into the race was welcomed by Senator  In his announcement, Sanders said, "I don't believe that the men and women who defended American democracy fought to create a situation where billionaires own the political process."
Sanders announced his intention to seek the Democratic Party's nomination for president on April 30, 2015, in an address on the Capitol lawn. His campaign was officially launched on May 26, 2015, in Burlington.
2016 presidential campaign
- Committee on the Budget (Ranking Member)
- Committee on Environment and Public Works
- Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
- Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
- Committee on Veterans' Affairs
In January 2015, Sanders became the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee. He appointed economics professor Stephanie Kelton, a distinguished modern monetary theory scholar and self-described "deficit owl", as the chief economic advisor for the committee's Democratic minority and presented a report aimed at helping "rebuild the disappearing middle class", which included proposals to raise the minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, and increase Social Security payments.
Senate Budget Committee