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Sen Bernie Sanders is turning up the heat on two members of his own Democratic caucus who are imperiling approval of a $3.5 trillion spending package which Sanders himself helped architect.
The Vermont independent weeks ago began assembling the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act as a vehicle to enact much of President Biden’s domestic agenda ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
Sens Joe Manchin, of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, each are standing in the way of passing the sprawling bill, and demanding that Democrats water it down if they want their crucial support.
Democrats are using a budget process known as “reconciliation” to avoid any Republican filibustering.
That’s not acceptable to Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
“Poll after poll, including polls in West Virginia, show that what we are trying to do in this reconciliation bill is enormously popular among the American people, but it’s not just the American people who support what we’re trying to do. Forty-eight out of 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus support the bill, and 210 members, about 96 percent of the House Democratic Caucus support the bill,” Sanders said. “And by the way, the president of the United States supports the bill. And while we’re at it, let me tell you who is vigorously opposed to this legislation, and I think it’s important that the American people understand that, because this is the corruption of American politics.
“The pharmaceutical industry is currently spending hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying, on campaign contributions, on advertising to oppose this bill because they do not want to have us lower the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs in America,” the two-time presidential candidate added. “The health insurance industry is spending a huge amount of money because they do not want us to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing aid, and eyeglasses. The fossil fuel industry, the coal companies and the oil companies are spending millions of dollars, despite the fact that the scientists are virtually unanimous in telling us that we must end our dependence on fossil fuel and move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy if we are going to save this planet.
“And, it goes without saying that the billionaire class and large corporations are spending a fortune in opposition to this bill because they love the idea that some of the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations in a given year do not pay a nickel in federal income tax, and they’re fighting to preserve that absurdity,” Sanders said. “In other words, we are talking — we are taking on some of the most powerful special interests in this country who will end up spending huge amounts of money in order to prevent us from doing what we should be doing, protecting the needs of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor, and protecting this planet for future generations.”
Sanders also drilled down to some of Manchin’s specific complaints about the legislation.
“Now, Senator Manchin, as I understand it, talked about today, about not wanting to see our country become ‘an entitlement society.’ Well, I am not exactly sure what he means by that,” he said. “Does that mean that we end the $300 direct payments for working-class parents, which have cut childhood poverty in this country as a result of the American Rescue Plan, in half? Is protecting working families and cutting childhood poverty an ‘entitlement?’ Does Senator Manchin think we should once again have one of the highest levels of childhood poverty of any major country on earth?”
Manchin, as well as Sinema, are holding up the will of the majority, according to Sanders.
“So, Senator Manchin has a right to fight for his point of view. He has not only a right to be heard, he has a right to get some compromises. He’s a member of the Senate. But two people do not have the right to sabotage what 48 want and what the president of the United States wants. That to me is wrong,” he added.
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