Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Wednesday that he has "been in the Democratic caucus in the House and Senate from the first day" he took federal office, but Democrats initially rejected his attempts to join the caucus.
After being elected as an Independent congressman from Vermont, Sanders, who is now a senator, tried to gain admission to the Democratic Caucus and was not allowed. He was still not a member of the Democratic Caucus as of 1993, his second session in the House. He is now a member of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Speaking on the Diane Rehm show on public radio Wednesday, Sanders, who alternately describes himself as a "socialist" and a "democratic socialist," claimed that he had caucused with the Democrats for his whole time as a federal lawmaker, despite formally identifying as an Independent.
"It is true. I always win in Vermont as an Independent," he said. "But I have been in
the Democratic caucus in the House and the Senate from the first day that I was--took office--and will abide by all of the rules and regulations of secretaries of state around this country and the Democratic Party and intend to be on the ballot in 50 states and intend to do everything I can to win this election."
But in 1993, while on Larry King Live, Sanders corrected substitute host Bob Beckel when Beckel said that, though he wasn't a Democrat, "you caucus with the Democrats."
"No, actually, I don't," Sanders said.
According to a New York Times story written in December 1990 the month after he was first elected, Sanders initially "sought admission to the Caucus so that he could work with like-minded members." House Democratic leadership allowed him to join a committee, but not the Caucus.
A Los Angeles Times story from the following September described him as "the only one of the 435 members not aligned with either the Democratic or Republican caucus."
Meanwhile, during the 1990s, Sanders often tried to distance himself from the Democratic Party, both while speaking on the House floor and to the press. For instance, in remarks on the House floor in 1992, he described himself as "the only Member who is not a Democrat or beholden to the Democratic leadership, or a Republican beholden to the Republican leadership."
Yesterday, Sanders appeared to try to associate himself with the Democrats. In addition to claiming he had been a member of the Democratic Caucus "from the first day," he noted that he had always participated in the Democratic primaries.
"Okay, first, I'm not a registered Independent," he said, correcting Rehm. "In Vermont, we don't register. You go in and you vote on primary day for either the Democrats or Republicans and I go into the Democratic Primary and vote for candidates within that primary."
It is unclear when Sanders, who was elected to the Senate in 2007, joined the Democratic Caucus.
Sanders' Senate office did not return requests for comment.