Bernie Sanders Takes Some Heat From Left-Wing Supporters

January 3rd 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made advocating for affordable high education a centerpiece of his presidential campaign.


However, the progressive firebrand took criticism from some of his supporters on Tuesday for appearing at an event alongside New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Sanders was with Cuomo as he announced his proposal to offer free public college for New York students whose families earn less than $125,000 per year.

The criticisms focused not on Sanders' endorsement of Cuomo's plan, but rather on Sanders' willingness to stand beside a Democratic governor who had recently run afoul of liberal constituents.

Cuomo's plan for middle class and low-income students comes just days after he dealt a huge blow to poor people in his state's legal system.

Andrew Cuomo

On Saturday, Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have forced the state to pay for legal services for low-income New Yorkers.

“Unfortunately, an agreement was unable to be reached and the legislature was committed to a flawed bill that placed an $800 million burden on taxpayers — $600 million of which was unnecessary — with no way to pay for it and no plan to make one,” said Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi, The New York Daily News reports.

“We are all shocked that the Governor vetoed a bill that would have reduced racial disparities in the criminal justice system, helped ensure equal access to justice for all New Yorkers, provided improved public defense programs for those who cannot afford an attorney, and much-needed mandate relief for counties," Jonathan Gradess, executive director of the New York State Defenders Association, told the New York Daily News.

Democratic Socialists of America, which supported Sanders during his presidential run, criticized him on Twitter for endorsing Cuomo so shortly after he vetoed the legal defense funding legislation.

The tweets also noted that Cuomo's plan fell short what Sanders' proposed during his own presidential bid: free public college for all.

The cost of higher education was a key point of debate between Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary.

Sanders made free college tuition a focal point of his campaign. In May of 2015 he introduced a bill in the Senate that would have made all public colleges and universities in the U.S. tuition free. Clinton criticized the free college proposal in October, saying "I'm a little different from those who say free college for everybody. I am not in favor of making college free for Donald Trump's kids. I am in favor of making college free for your grandson by having no debt tuition."

The Vermont senator was also critical of Clinton's initial college affordability plan, which offered $18 billion in federal funds for re-investment in high education. At the time the plan was released, Sanders said that "it [didn't] go far enough." Clinton would eventually propose a plan, similar to Cuomo's, which would eventually offer free tuition to students whose families make less than $125,000.

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