Bernie Sanders made free college tuition one of his main policy goals during his 2016 run for president but in his zeal to damage the Republican tax bill, even temporarily, Sanders attacked Berea College, a liberal arts college in Kentucky which serves needy students whose parents can’t afford to pay tuition.
A last-ditch effort by Mr. Sanders and Senate Democrats to embarrass Republicans — or at least delay final passage of the tax bill — rendered Berea collateral damage in the partisan wars in Washington.
A provision in the tax bill, introduced by Kentucky’s senior senator, Mitch McConnell, would have exempted Berea from a 1.4 percent excise tax that will be imposed on the nation’s wealthiest colleges…
Mr. Sanders, as the ranking member of the Budget Committee, challenged the provision as a clear carve-out for an institution from Mr. McConnell’s home state. The Senate parliamentarian agreed, ruling that the language violated Senate budget rules that prohibit “extraneous matters” and policymaking on bills that use a special procedure to avoid filibusters.
The carve-out for Berea College was one of three items which failed to meet the Byrd rule. By forcing the Senate to drop the language, Sanders made it necessary for the House to vote on the bill a 2nd time this morning. Tuesday, Sanders and Ron Wyden released a joint statement saying, “In the mad dash to provide tax breaks for their billionaire campaign contributors, our Republican colleagues forgot to comply with the rules of the Senate.”
The impact on the tax bill only lasted a few hours but the impact on Berea and its students, who come from families with a median income of $29,000, will be more significant:
By Wednesday morning, Berea’s president, Lyle Roelofs, was fielding calls from apologetic politicians. Republican leaders assured him that he still had their support. Democratic leaders told him the move was not personal…
A 1 percent decrease in revenue each year would shave off the number of students that the school is able to fund, Mr. Roelofs said. The school already can accept only 20 percent of its applicants…
“Democrats’ fanatical opposition to the tax bill reached such hysterical heights that Bernie Sanders proudly led the charge to deliberately harm Berea College, which offers free tuition to less fortunate families,” Mr. McConnell said.
To sum this up, Bernie Sanders wanted to embarrass the GOP so he targeted a college that benefits people at the lower end of the income scale, knowing it would create a very temporary bump in the road and a few snarky headlines. Well done, socialist champion of the people!