POLITICS
01/12/2017 11:17 am ET

Bernie Sanders Says He Can Work With Trump On Infrastructure And Trade

But the Vermont senator has some tough conditions for the president-elect.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is open to working with President-elect Donald Trump on rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and reforming the United States’ trade policies.

“I don’t think it makes sense to say, ‘No, we’re not going to work in any way, in any form with the Trump administration,’” Sanders said Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“Trump has talked appropriately about a collapsing infrastructure ― our roads, bridges and water systems,” he continued. “If he is prepared to work with us on rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure and creating millions of jobs, and doing it in a way that doesn’t privatize our infrastructure or give tax breaks to billionaires, yes, let’s work together.”

Sanders suggested that renegotiating trade agreements to provide more favorable terms for American workers could also be an area of common ground.

“If he is prepared to work with us on a trade policy which works for the American worker and not just the CEO of large multi-national corporations, let’s work together on those areas,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said.

But Sanders warned that there “cannot be any compromise” when it comes to confronting the bigotry sown by Trump as a candidate, or “protecting American democracy, working against voter suppression that many Republican governors are trying to bring about.”

Sanders’ remarks come a day after he credited Trump for condemning pharmaceutical industry greed and implying he would like to empower the government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.

“He’s right. And I’ve been saying that for years,” Sanders said, even as he suggested Trump did not understand what he was proposing. “Pharma does get away with murder. Literally murder. People die because they can’t get the prescription drugs they need.”

The Vermont senator is trying to strike a delicate balance as he takes a prominent role in Democratic efforts to resist Trump’s agenda.

Sanders has on more than one occasion suggested that Trump’s professed heterodox economic views on trade and infrastructure ― as well as his stated support for protecting major social insurance programs ― create opportunities fopr collaboration.

“To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him,” Sanders said in a statement the day after the election. “To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”

Later in November, Sanders also emphasized rebuilding infrastructure as a possible ground for cooperation.

It is not clear, however, whether Sanders really believes Trump is amenable to cooperation in these areas, or if Sanders is merely laying the groundwork to call out Trump’s hypocrisy if he diverges from his campaign promises.

By issuing demands that Trump will have difficulty accommodating, such as infrastructure investment coming entirely from the government, Sanders may be sowing the seeds for a confrontation.

His Thursday comments hinted at the challenges Trump will face on infrastructure, in particular, if he prioritizes the private tax credits preferred by Republicans, rather than the direct public investment favored by Sanders and other progressives.

The vast majority of the Trump campaign’s official infrastructure plan relies on providing private companies incentives to invest in building projects, many of which are already underway or would otherwise be performed by the government. That approach reduces their positive impact on the economy and could enable private interests to extract rents from the public later on.

Sanders was also vocal on these dangers in November, dubbing Trump’s proposals “corporate welfare coming and going.” 

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