A progressive who gets progressive things doneLegislation ReferenceExecutiveImage

A progressive who gets progressive things done.


The “Amendment King” was among the most productive, effective members of congress despite serving primarily in republican majorities. Bernie Sanders used relentless action, bipartisan coalitions, and smart strategy to pass the most amendments of any congressperson in his era.

Detractors falsely stereotype Bernie as a no-compromise idealist. This plays on the lazy right-wing stereotype of progressives as more interested in ideological purity than progress.  That narrative is completely false.

Bernie Gets It Done: Sanders’ Record of Pushing Through Major Reforms Will Surprise You | Alternet

His accomplishments were not trivial, but exclusively progressive legislation that won important benefits for the vulnerable. These are just a few of his amendments that became law. Short image: Bernie Sanders is a progressive who actually gets PROGRESSIVE things done.

Inside the Horror Show That Is Congress

Bernie crawled through a river of filth and came out clean. This is a must read article on the shockingly callous behavior of congress. Despite this horror show, in which even decent politicians eventually relent and become corrupted, he continued to fight for the right thing every day, against overwhelming opposition, to accomplish an impeccable record of progressive legislation that has helped Americans. He never gave in to the temptation of big money despite having to run against republican AND democratic opponents in his early elections. This particular article is not about his successes, but establishes just how hard he fought. These are a few of the amendments he could not get through congress. There were many he did, as you can see in the other links.

Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years via Legislative Side Doors

This article describes Sanders’ techniques. It is the same one the New York times later edited to add completely subjective insults and minimizing language.

What Bernie Sanders Got Done in Washington: A Legislative Inventory

This is a list of every substantive bill and amendment Sanders sponsored from the floor of Congress that became law (substantive meaning legislation renaming post offices is not included). It omits the amendments he passed with majority approval — like limiting the federal government’s ability to spy on people’s library records — but were removed from bills when the House and Senate negotiated over the final legislative text and did not become law.

A lifetime of public service by the numbers

Infographic on a few impressive numbers accomplished during his career.

GOP Officials Publicly Denounce Bernie Sanders’ Obamacare Expansion, Quietly Request Funding

Over the years, Sanders has tucked away funding for health centers in appropriation bills signed by George W. Bush, into Barack Obama’s stimulus program, and through the earmarking process. But his biggest achievement came in 2010 through the Affordable Care Act. In a series of high-stakes legislative maneuvers, Sanders struck a deal to include $11 billion for health clinics in the law.

This extended the number of people served by clinics from 18 million before the ACA to an expected 28 million next year.

Sanders was also instrumental in getting the ACA, “Obamacare,” through congress.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., tapped Sanders to help win support from liberals who thought the bill was too weak as well as from Democrats from rural states who were facing mounting pressure. More funding for community health centers, Sanders argued, was a win-win solution for both camps, since the program would ensure access to health care for even the most remote areas of the country while also helping those without insurance.

Legislation Reference


The following is a list of every substantive bill and amendment Sanders sponsored from the floor of Congress that became law (substantive meaning legislation renaming post offices is not included). Many of the roll-call amendments he passed with majority approval  — like limiting the federal government’s ability to spy on people’s library records — were removed from bills when the House and Senate negotiated over the final legislative text and did not become law.

Because the list is derived from Congress’ official database of floor actions, it does not include achievements like his insertion of funding for veterans 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.

102nd Congress — 1991-1992

  • Authorize grants or contracts to operate population-based, statewide cancer registries in order to collect certain data for each form of in-situ and invasive cancer except basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. Authorizes grants for planning the registries. Mandates a study on factors contributing to elevated rates of breast cancer mortality in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. Authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services, directly or through grants and contracts, or both, to provide technical assistance to the States in the establishment and operation of statewide registries. H.R.4206 (Cancer Registries Amendment Act) enacted as S. 3312 (Cancer Registries Amendment Act).

103rd Congress — 1993-1994

  • None.

104th Congress — 1995-1996

105th Congress — 1997-1998

106th Congress — 1999-2000

107th Congress — 2001-2002

108th Congress — 2003-2004

109th Congress — 2005-2006

  • None.

110th Congress — 2007-2008

111th Congress — 2009-2010

112th Congress — 2011-2012

  • None.

113th Congress — 2013-2014

114th Congress — 2015-2016

  • None as of this writing (11/9/15).



Can Sanders translate his time as an effective legislator into an effective presidency? After all, a legislative job is different than an executive job. His mayoral record is arguably even more impressive.

During the course of his terms as the mayor of Burlington, voter turnout doubled. He rejuvenated a city that was considered by many to be dying, laying out progressive policies that cities around the country later adopted, and he did all this without particularly alienating Republicans. As one former GOP Alderman noted, he implemented ideas from the Republican party that he felt were not particularly harmful to working people, such as more efficient accounting practices. Burlington was later rated the second best place to live in America.

What Kind of Mayor Was Bernie Sanders? – The Nation

Bernie took every avenue for practical progress, conventional and unconventional. He encouraged grassroots organizing, adopted local laws to protect the vulnerable, challenged and eventually won over the city’s business power brokers, and worked collaboratively with other politicians.

Burlington was no hippie counterculture enclave. Although the city attracted many young, educated people because of its natural beauty and the presence of the University of Vermont, it has always had a large working-class population who, until Sanders came on the scene, tended to vote for moderate Democrats and Republicans. Each time he ran for mayor, Sanders attracted increasing support from the city’s blue-collar precincts.

Not me. Us.  In the 1970s and ’80s, Sanders was one of a handful of mayors to use the levers of local government to adopt enlightened progressive policies. More than in any other city, Burlington’s progressives consolidated those reforms over the long haul. The coalition that coalesced around Sanders in 1981 governed Burlington for all but two of the next 31 years.

Thanks to the enduring influence of the progressive climate that Sanders and his allies helped to create in Burlington, the city’s largest housing development is now resident-owned, its largest supermarket is a consumer-owned cooperative, one of its largest private employers is worker-owned, and most of its people-oriented waterfront is publicly owned. Burlington became the first American city to run entirely on renewable electricity.

Most of Burlington’s business leaders initially distrusted Sanders, but many of Sanders’s early opponents came to respect and even admire his willingness to listen to their views and his successful economic development.

  • With the support of Republicans and business leaders, he created the Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) to carry out his vision for more affordable housing, more locally owned small businesses, greater community engagement in planning, and job development. CEDO director Michael Monte: “Bernie was never anti-growth, anti-development, or anti-business.  He just wanted businesses to be responsible toward their employees and the community. He wanted local entrepreneurs to thrive. He wanted people to have good jobs that pay a living wage.”
  • The Sanders administration provided new firms with seed funding, offered technical assistance, helped businesses form trade associations, focused attention on helping women become entrepreneurs, funded training programs to give women access to nontraditional jobs, and lobbied the state government to promote business growth.
  • Burlington had no supermarket in the downtown area. The major grocery chains told city officials that they would invest in a new store only if they could build a mega-market that residents believed was too large. Instead, the Sanders administration put its hopes in the local Onion River Cooperative. With 2,000 members in its former location, some thought it was a risky venture. It turned out to be a good investment, and under Sanders’s successor it became City Market, a thriving enterprise with more than 9,000 members.
  • Under Sanders, Burlington became a magnet for attracting and incubating locally owned businesses, many of which expanded into large enterprises. Burton, America’s largest snowboard company, has its headquarters (and snowboard museum) in Burlington. The city assisted Seventh Generation, a green cleaning-products firm, when it started in 1988. Today, with its downtown waterfront headquarters in a LEED-certified building and over $300 million in annual sales, it is one of Burlington’s largest employers With the city’s help, Gardeners Supply Company, which sells environmentally friendly gardening products, moved to Burlington in 1983. Four years later, its founder, Will Raap, began the process of selling the firm to its workers. It now has over 250 employee-owners.
  • As Gardeners Supply transitioned to employee ownership, Raap organized volunteers to clean up a largely derelict floodplain north of the store. Eventually CEDO, Sanders’s development agency, helped arrange the purchase of the area and provided the capital for irrigation systems, farm vehicles, and washing stations for vegetables. By the end of the 1990s, it was home to a dozen urban farms, annually producing over 500,000 pounds of food for local homes and stores. It now generates over 10% of the food sold in Burlington.
  • Sanders developed a “people’s waterfront.”  Burlington’s Lake Champlain waterfront was an industrial wasteland.  Tony Pomerleau, an influential local businessman, planned a luxury mega-project. Monte: “Bernie wanted to make sure that it was a place with plenty of open space and public access, where ordinary people could rent a rowboat and buy a hot dog. That wasn’t just for the elite. It was Bernie who set the tone that the waterfront wasn’t for sale.”  The Burlington waterfront now has a community boathouse, sailing center, science center, fishing pier, eight-mile bike path, acres of parkland, and public beaches. On May 26, Sanders kicked off his presidential campaign with a rally at Waterfront Park.
  • Pomerleau, a longtime Republican, made his money developing supermarkets, hotels, and shopping centers.  For decades, he wielded considerable political influence and chaired the police commission.  “When [Sanders] first ran for mayor, he was running against guys like me.”  He voted against Sanders in 1981 and knocked on his door the day after that election. “I said, ‘You’re the mayor, but it’s still my town.’”  Pomerleau wasn’t happy when Sanders opposed his waterfront plan, but he gradually got to know the mayor and admire his pragmatism, his bulldog tenacity to get things done, and his support for the local police.  “Bernie and I worked very well together for the betterment of the town.  We were the odd couple.”  Pomerleau voted for Sanders in his three mayoral re-elections, and Sanders frequently called Pomerleau to ask his advice. They stayed in close contact, even after Sanders was elected to Congress.

Burlington’s strong economic and population growth could have displaced low- and middle-income families. Under Sanders, the city adopted policies to create permanently affordable housing.

  • The city channeled a large portion of its federal block grant funds to nonprofits committed to that goal, and cultivated a constituency of these small development organizations. The first key move was support for the Burlington Community Land Trust with an initial $200,000 grant. Now named the Champlain Housing Trust, the nonprofit has over $290 million in assets; manages a portfolio of 2,800 price-controlled houses, condos, co-ops, and rentals; and owns over 120,000 square feet of commercial space and nonprofit facilities.
  • To provide funding for new housing initiatives, the Sanders-led city created a housing trust fund, capitalized in part by a 1 percent increase in property taxes. A year after Sanders left office, the coalition he built successfully pushed the City Council to enact an inclusionary zoning law. Market-rate residential projects were required to set aside 10–25 percent of the units at rents and prices affordable to families with modest incomes and to keep them affordable for 99 years.
  • The Sanders administration carefully nurtured neighborhood planning assemblies (NPA) in each of the city’s six wards, providing them with modest budgets to deliberate and advise on projects affecting their neighborhoods. The NPAs had a voice over the use of federal Community Development Block Grant funds in their neighborhoods. Today, Burlingtonians credit the NPAs with raising the level of resident participation and discussion in local politics.
  • “Bernie pounded his fist on the conference table in his office and told the owners, ‘Over my dead body are you going to displace 336 working families. You are not going to convert Northgate into luxury housing.’” John Davis, a key housing aide, remembers a meeting in 1986 Bernie confronted the owners of the city’s largest affordable-housing complex. The federal program that had subsidized the Northgate Apartments for 20 years had a loophole that allowed the landlords to convert the buildings into market rentals or luxury condos.Under Sanders’s leadership, the city adopted a number of laws to protect residents. One ordinance required apartment owners to give residents two years’ notice before a condo conversion. Others gave residents a pre-emptive right to buy the units and prohibited landlords from bulldozing buildings unless they replaced them with the same number of affordable units. (These measures lowered the selling price of the property.) Sanders then worked with the state government and Senator Patrick Leahy to get the $12 million needed to purchase and rehabilitate the buildings. The city allocated funds to help the tenants hire an organizer, form the Northgate Residents Association, and start the process of converting the complex to resident ownership. Today, Northgate Apartments is owned by the tenants and has long-term regulations to keep the buildings affordable for working families.

Burlington is now widely heralded as an environmentally friendly, lively, and livable city with a thriving economy, including one of the lowest jobless rates in the country. Burlingtonians give Sanders credit for steering the city in a new direction that, despite early skepticism, proved to be broadly popular with voters.

A growing number of cities—including Seattle, New York, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Newark, and others—are now led by progressive mayors. They are adopting municipal minimum wage laws, requiring developers to build mixed-income housing, strengthening regulations against corporate polluters, and enacting other policies to address the nation’s growing economic inequality and environmental crises.

What they can learn from Sanders’ success is that good ideas are not sufficient. Creating more livable cities requires nurturing a core of activist organizations that can build long-term support for progressive municipal policies.



A lifetime of public service by the numbers


Bernie Sanders is a progressive who actually gets PROGRESSIVE things done

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