“I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive that likes to get things done,” said Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the first primary debate. Nevermind that the things Clinton helped ‘get done’ — the disastrous Iraq war, the Patriot Act — should have never been done, the purpose of this jab was twofold:
- Leverage her status as a Washington insider to present herself to voters as a pragmatist uniquely qualified to get things done as president.
- Draw a contrast between herself and her main rival, independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who she insinuated is a progressive that does not get things done.
This line of attack works because it plays on a common stereotype that socialists and progressives are more interested in ideological purity than in making real-world progress, but when we compare the first eight years of their respective Senate legislative records, it turns out Sanders got more meaningful legislation done than Clinton.
As a Senator, Clinton sponsored three bills that became law: S.3145, S.3613, and S.1241. The first of these renamed a highway in New York state, the second renamed a post office in New York City, and the third established the Kate Mullany National Historic Site in Troy, New York and authorized funding to set the site up.
During Sanders’ time in the Senate, he sponsored two bills that became law: S.885 and S.893. The first of these renamed a post office in Vermont. The second increased compensation for disabled veterans and their families.
While Sanders chaired the Senate’s Veteran Affairs committee during the 113th Congress (2013-2014), 13 of the committee’s bills became law. That may not sound like a lot until you realize that the Senate Veterans Affairs (VA) committee only passed 8.5 bills into law on average during each of the past 20 Congresses and that these 13 bills became law during the second least productive Congress in American history.
Sanders’ most significant achievement during 113th Congress was passing a $16.3 billion bipartisan VA reform bill that expanded existing and created new health care facilities, allowed veterans to go outside the VA system to private health care providers when wait times are too long or if a veteran lives more than 40 miles away from a VA facility, and made it easier to fire VA officials.
Sanders was so effective as a legislator that the (right-wing) Veterans of Foreign Wars awarded him its highest honor in 2015.
How many bills did Clinton successfully shepherd into law as the chair of a Senate committee? Zero. Clinton did not chair any Senate committees during the three Congresses she served in because she did not accumulate enough seniority.
If you are looking for a presidential candidate with a proven record of beating partisan gridlock to get meaningful legislation passed in Washington, D.C., then
Hillary Clinton Bernie Sanders deserves your support.