Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been a worthy challenger to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential 2016 nominee front runner. He is in many ways the modern day version of Don Quixote, someone who fights for the good and battles on behalf of the people at all costs.
For those not familiar with the story it follows the adventures of an hidalgo named Mr. Alonso Quixano who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his sanity and decides to set out to revive chivalry, undo wrongs, and bring justice to the world, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha.
I don’t mean to suggest that Sanders has lost his mind but his history in politics is very much like the novel in that he always been fighting the good fight but the results have been a mixed bag.
When Sanders entered the Democratic race for president he actually had to become member of the party first. He is the longest serving Independent in Congress where for a quarter of a century he has been a vocal back bencher.
Before the people of Vermont elected him to the Senate in 2006, he had served as Congressman and Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi dubbed Sanders the “amendment king” of the House of Representatives noting:
“Since the Republicans took over Congress in 1995, no other lawmaker – not Tom DeLay, not Nancy Pelosi – has passed more roll-call amendments (amendments that actually went to a vote on the floor) than Bernie Sanders. He accomplishes this on the one hand by being relentlessly active, and on the other by using his status as an Independent to form left-right coalitions.”
Because the list is derived from Congress’ official database of floor actions, it does not include achievements like his insertion of funding for veteran’s health care into an Iraq war spending bill because that occurred off of the House floor while the bill was in conference. Nor does the list include what is perhaps his most significant achievement — providing health care to an additional 10 million mostly low-income Americans by getting Senate majority leader Harry Reid to add $11 billion in funding for community health centers that provide care regardless of a person’s ability to pay to the 2010 Affordable Care Act in exchange for Sanders rallying liberal Democrats who were considering voting against the bill once conservative Democrats removed the public option.
Despite working as the amendment king his ability to sponsor legislation has been lacking.
For the last 25 years in Congress, 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.
As is the case for the low level members of Congress, Sanders record shows that as an outsider, who always 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.
Over the past quarter of a century Sanders has put forth 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.
If you compare that to the record of Hillary Clinton, who served two terms as the junior Senator of the state of New York it is an interesting comparison. In her 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.
Clinton has not directly attacked Mr. Sanders ‘record as a lawmaker, but she ha