As progressive and moderate Democrats in Congress continue to battle over an acceptable top line for President Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation, Sen. Bernie Sanders is urging both sides to unite to “protect the interests of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor” in a new op-ed.
Sanders (I-Vt.), a leading progressive voice pushing for an even higher top line, pointed to several reasons why Congress needs to pass Biden’s Build Back Better agenda in the op-ed published by Fox News Wednesday, citing “overwhelming support” from the American people.
“Some 88 percent believe we should lower the cost of prescription drugs, 84 percent believe we should expand Medicare to include dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses, 73 percent support establishing paid family and medical leave, and 67 percent want universal pre-K. Further, 67 percent believe the federal government should raise taxes on high-income people and corporations to help pay for these desperately needed programs — which is what this legislation does,” Sanders claims.
“So, given this overwhelming support, why is it taking so long for Congress to pass this bill? The answer is simple. Follow the money.”
During a Tuesday call with reporters, Sanders dubbed the current price line “already a major compromise.”
“We are prepared to negotiate, we’re prepared to compromise, but we are not going to negotiate with ourselves,” he said. “Three point five trillion is already a major compromise, in my view, much too low given the enormous problems facing us in terms of climate. The time is now long overdue for Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema to tell us exactly where they are. What do they want to cut?”
House progressives like Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Biden, are continuing to push for $3.5 trillion.
Jayapal echoed Sanders’ sentiment, calling the budget resolution “not some fringe wishlist.”
In his op-ed, Sanders accused Big Pharma of spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” on lobbying to defeat the massive spending bill because “it does not want Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices.”
He noted that the legislation is not just limited to pharmaceuticals, accusing the fossil fuel industry of caring more about protecting “its special interests,” short-term profits and preventing the government from making carbon emissions cuts than addressing climate change.
The senator appeared to implore Americans to support the legislation, pointing out benefits toward stopping child poverty, getting women back in the workforce, making community college free, and getting homeless off the streets.
“It will end the international embarrassment of the United States of America being the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave as a human right,” Sanders wrote.
“It is no great surprise that not a single Republican in Congress supports this bill. After all, this is the party that four years ago provided $2 trillion in tax breaks to primarily benefit the wealthy and large corporations, and came within one vote of throwing up to 32 million Americans off their health care,” he added.
The Vermont Democrat acknowledged that in an evenly split Senate, the Democrats need all hands on deck to pass the spending bill through reconciliation, saying that “the question of whether we finally deliver consequential legislation to improve the lives of working class families comes down to Democratic unity.”
“Will all Democrats stand together to protect the interests of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor? Will all Democrats stand together to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry, and wealthy campaign contributors? I certainly hope so.“
Sanders appeared to be taking a stab at Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), who have vowed not to support the legislation at its current price tag in the upper chamber.
Manchin has proposed a top line of $1.5 trillion while Sinema has not made her budget publicly known.