Senate Budget Committee chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Sunday pushed back at Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) blistering statement that called progressives’ success in delaying the vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill “an ineffective stunt to gain leverage over a separate proposal.”
Appearing on ABC News, Sanders was asked to respond to Sinema’s statement that accused progressives of pulling off an “ineffective stunt” that holds the bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage over the reconciliation package. The House vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill was delayed as a result of progressives’ threat to tank the bill if a vote was held on it before reconciliation, defying moderates’ push for decoupling the passage of both bills.
Sanders replied that he thinks Sinema is “wrong.” He cited commitments by President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to pass both infrastructure bills in tandem.
After touting provisions of both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the reconciliation package, Sanders argued that lawmakers are not just simply dealing with centrist Sens. Sinema or Joe Manchin (D-WV), they are taking on “the entire ruling class of this country” such as drug and health insurance companies as well as the fossil fuel industry.
“The Republican Party is bought and paid for by the pharmaceutical industry. They’re not going to do anything,” Sanders said. “But I hope very much and I expect that the Democratic caucus and the president, I know he will, stand firm and tell the drug companies, ‘Stop ripping us off.'”
Pressed on the President reportedly floating a $2 trillion top line number on the reconciliation package during a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on Friday, Sanders said he was unsure if that number was accurate, but that Biden has said that there will be “some give and take” in negotiations.
Sanders went on to argue that the $6 trillion he initially proposed for reconciliation is “probably too little” to address the climate change crisis so therefore a price tag of $3.5 trillion “should be a minimum.”
“But I accept there’s going to have to be give and take,” Sanders said, before saying that $2 trillion for reconciliation is “not enough.”
Last week, Sanders, who was among the 10 Democratic senators that vocally backed House progressive’s threat to sink BIF without reconciliation, pushed back at the notion that the bill’s failure to pass is a “make or break” moment for the President’s agenda.
“This is not make or break, this is a totally arbitrary date — it was supposed to be Monday, it was pushed to Thursday, and if it’s pushed back two more weeks, it doesn’t matter,” Sanders told reporters on Thursday. “It will pass. But it must pass in tandem with the legislation that the American people want.
In response to the delayed vote on BIF, top Democratic centrists such as Sinema and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) threw a fit in separate statements.
“We cannot let this small faction on the far left … destroy the president’s agenda and stop the creation of 2 million jobs a year,” Gottheimer said in a statement.
The President, however, appears unfazed by centrists’ frustrations over the delayed vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. On Saturday, Biden acknowledged that although “everybody’s frustrated, it’s part of being in government,” he will “work like hell” to pass both infrastructure bills.
Watch Sanders’ remarks below: