Bernie Sanders expresses frustration with centrists in spending talks
WASHINGTON – Bernie Sanders has pushed Congress for decades to extend the social safety net and tackle climate change, with limited success. Now, with Democrats on the verge of finalizing such a package, the Vermont senator must decide how much is enough.
The party is currently stuck in negotiations over winnowing a $ 3.5 trillion education, health care, child care and climate plan, after the senses. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona retreated from the original price. They are negotiating with the White House and Democratic leaders to find a compromise on which programs to fund and for how long, a process that has sparked growing frustration on Sanders’ part.
Last week, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist staged two media events and stepped up his criticism of Mr Manchin and Ms Sinema. He told reporters that the centrists need to be clear about what they want and that the whole party shouldn’t have to come to them.
“I am delighted that the Democratic caucus and the president are ready to think big and not small,” Sanders said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Among the centrists, he said, “They have the right to fight for their ideas, they have the right to get concessions for their ideas, like everyone else in the caucus, but it just seems fundamentally unfair and undemocratic to me. for two people to say it’s my way or the highway.
Mr Manchin said he would like to see the package cost $ 1.5 trillion, while Ms Sinema has not shared any figures publicly. After initially supporting $ 3.5 trillion, President Biden began to float a level of around $ 2000 billion as a compromise.
Democrats are using a special budget maneuver to pass the legislation without any Republican backing, but they need all 50 lawmakers to stay on board. Any senator’s opposition would destroy the bill. Much of the party’s goal has been to win over Mr Manchin and Ms Sinema, but Mr Sanders must also decide what he is willing to accept and how hard he will push for it. So far, he says that number is still $ 3.5 trillion.
As Mr. Sanders says he is holding on, other Liberals recognize that they will have to take less. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D., Washington), who chairs a group of House Progressives, told President Biden that a package must be at least $ 2.5 trillion.
“At some point we will all have to vote on the bill,” said Senator Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii).
Mr. Sanders, an independent, was once on the fringes of the Democratic caucus. But his two presidential runs popularized within the party a bigger role for government in the economy, funded by higher taxes on wealthy households and big business. While some signature goals, such as a Medicare for All health care system, remain on the sidelines, the current Democratic proposal has adopted or shifted toward other of its ideas, including free and subsidized preschool day care. , more affordable housing and provisions to mitigate climate change.
To fund the programs, Democrats say they plan to raise taxes on corporations, investors and high-income business owners, with the amount of tax increases that can be reduced if spending plans are cut. The details stay in motion. Mr Sanders and Democrats have said they expect the new revenue to cover the full price of the package.
No Republican should vote for the package, regardless of its final size. They called the plan a reckless spending proposal that could hurt the economy.
“It’s a 50-50 body,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) told the Senate. “And yet the Democrats interpreted this incredibly tight election as a mandate to radically transform this country”, calling their spending plan “Bernie Sanders’ socialist budget.”
Representative Ro Khanna (D., California), a liberal close to Mr. Sanders, said that Messrs. Sanders and Manchin were to enter into direct talks. If they can come to an agreement, Khanna said, the rest of the Democratic Party will follow.
“He is the standard bearer of the progressive movement. Once he signs something, every progressive in the House will vote for it, ”Khanna said of Mr. Sanders.
Mr. Sanders declined to say whether he had spoken to Mr. Manchin or Ms. Sinema. When a reporter asked him on Friday if it made sense to walk into a room with the centrists to strike a deal, he joked, “This is not a movie.”
A spokesperson for Ms. Sinema declined a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for Mr Manchin reported to the Journal about a statement Mr Manchin made last week after Mr Sanders criticized him at a press conference.
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“As he and I have discussed, Senator Sanders thinks America should move towards a rights society when I think we should have a compassionate and rewarding society,” Manchin said in his statement.
As a way to cut costs, Manchin signaled his support for reviewing the resources of some programs to target low-income Americans rather than making them accessible to everyone. Mr Sanders said he was not enthusiastic about the idea. Supporters have proposed making two free years of community college available to low-income Americans only, or lowering the income thresholds for the child tax credit.
The passage would secure a significant chunk of Mr Biden’s busy first-year schedule, adding billions of dollars in spending on top of a $ 1.9 trillion Covid aid package and a bill d $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure on hold in Congress.
“My message is simple, we have to stay together,” Biden said during video remarks at the Democratic National Committee’s fall meeting on Saturday.
Mr Sanders maintains that the current package cannot be reduced and that he has already compromised. As chairman of the budget committee, which helps draft the legislation, Mr Sanders originally proposed a $ 6 trillion package, but came down to $ 3.5 trillion in order to gain the support of committee members. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both from Virginia. Much of the cost savings came from shortening the proposed duration of the programs.
Tensions with the centrists manifested themselves in other ways. Mr Sanders declined to sign a statement from the Democratic leadership condemning protesters who followed Ms Sinema into a bathroom because it did not include the change suggested by her office urging her to support the spending program. The email exchange was reported by Axios.
“I think a letter that does not recognize the importance of what Lucha is doing and why they are protesting Senator Sinema would be incomplete,” he said of the Arizona restroom incident. Lucha, for Living United for Change in Arizona, is a progressive advocacy group that has criticized Ms. Sinema.
Some voters who backed Mr Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination last year said they wanted as big a package as possible, but also understood the realities of Capitol Hill. Senate Democrats cannot lose a single vote, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) Can only lose three members in her chamber.
Stephanie Grohs, a 63-year-old retired librarian from Napa, Calif., Said she was uncomfortable with a $ 2 trillion package, but understands whether Mr Sanders and the Progressives need to get off. 3.5 trillion dollars.
“I don’t think he should hold the line in the sand” at $ 3.5 trillion, she said of Mr. Sanders. “I never thought I would say that because I’m a bit of an idealist, but these are tough times.”
—Kristina Peterson contributed to this article.
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