Sanders has a tough time turning his visions into reality Success rate for legislation less than 1 percent
Sen. Bernard Sanders’ promises of a democratic socialist revolution have enthralled liberal voters this campaign season, but the Vermont independent’s legislative record shows he has had a tough time turning his progressive vision into reality.
During his quarter-century in Congress, Mr. Sanders has been the chief sponsor of just three bills that were signed into law: two renaming U.S. Postal Service offices in his home state of Vermont and one that increased the annual cost-of-living raise for veterans’ benefits, which he secured as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in 2013.
It’s a record matched by most other members of Congress, who struggle to find legislative niches where they can advance their priorities. It also underscores the concerns among many in the Democratic Party establishment that their champion in next year’s elections needs to have a record of successes in addition to a liberal vision.
All told, Mr. Sanders introduced 353 bills during 16 years in the House and nine years in the Senate, giving him a success rate of just less than 1 percent. By comparison, Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who like Mr. Sanders has amassed a quarter-century in Congress, has had eight bills signed into law out of 376 introduced.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Mr. Sanders is challenging for the Democratic nomination, spent eight years in the Senate. She introduced 409 bills on which she was the lead sponsor, and three became law: renaming a post office, naming a highway and establishing a national historic site in Troy, New York, to recognize female labor leader Kate Mullany.
Mrs. Clinton has not directly attacked Mr. Sanders’ record as a lawmaker, but she has fed the impression that he is ineffective.
“I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive who likes to get things done,” Mrs. Clinton said at the inaugural Democratic presidential debate this month in Las Vegas. The line drew applause, and she started incorporating it into her stump speech.
“I think this does pose a problem for him because [Mrs. Clinton] is arguing that she is a pragmatic progressive who can get things done, and that would be a clear swipe at his inability to get legislation passed,” said Darrell M. West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
He said it was a fair criticism of Mr. Sanders’ legislative record.
“It has been difficult for him to get bills passed because he is much more liberal than the typical senator,” he said. “It suggests that it would be difficult for a President Sanders to get legislation through Congress.”
The Sanders campaign declined to participate in reporting for this article.
But Mr. Sanders has shown that he is keenly aware of being labeled an ineffective radical in Washington.
At one recent campaign rally, he insisted that there is “nothing that I am telling you today that is pie-in-the-sky utopia.”
Speaking to NBC’s “Today” program” last week, he said he would do a better job than President Obama of breaking congressional gridlock and getting his agenda passed.
“I will do it differently [than Mr. Obama],” he said. “Because at the end of the day, what they are really upset about is that big money controls what goes on in Congress. And the only way that we change that is when millions of people come forward and demand the government represent all of us and not just the billionaire class.”