Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders spar over Biden’s $3.5 trillion bill



Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday publicly sparred over the sweeping multitrillion-dollar social spending bill that’s been dividing Democrats.

Manchin — a moderate Democrat pushing back on the bill’s $3.5 trillion price tag — slammed Sanders for writing an op-ed in a West Virginia newspaper claiming the legislation would benefit working families in the state.

“This isn’t the first time an out-of-state has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state,” Manchin said in a statement.

“Millions of jobs are open, supply chains are strained and unavoidable inflation taxes are draining workers’ hard-earned wages as the price of gasoline and groceries continues to climb,” the West Virginia lawmaker continued.

“Senator Sanders’ answer is to throw more money on an already overheated economy while 52 other Senators have grave concerns about this approach.”

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders,
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders has pushed for more spending.

Manchin is one of two Democratic senators, along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have vowed not to support the reconciliation bill at its current top line — a stance that has drawn open criticism from other members of Congress.

Progressives have repeatedly taken aim at the centrists, with Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, recently tweeting: “2 senators cannot be allowed to defeat what 48 senators and 210 House members want.” 

The Vermont lawmaker took the fight to Manchin’s home state Friday with his essay in The Charleston Gazette-Mail calling on “every Democrat” to get on board with the massive legislation.

“Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation. Yet, the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote ‘yes,’ We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin,” Sanders wrote.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) catch and an elevator to go to the Senate Chamber to vote, after meeting in Sen. Manchin's hideaway for half an hour, in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin have been the moderates in the Democratic party.
Los Angeles Times / Polaris

He added that Congress had a “historic opportunity to support the working families of West Virginia, Vermont and the entire country and create policy which works for all, not just the few.”

But the progressive firebrand’s push did not sit well with Manchin, who has called on Congress to “hit the pause button” on the bill and argued for a topline number closer to $1.5 trillion. 

“To be clear, again, Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs,” Manchin said in his statement.

Sinema and Manchin have pushed for less spending than the progressive wing wants.
Sinema and Manchin have pushed for less spending than the progressive wing wants.

“No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that.” 

Moderates, including Sinema, have called for a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate earlier this year to head to the House before the larger package is brought to the floor.

But progressives managed to get House Democratic leadership to abandon plans to bring the bill to the floor late last month, with far-left lawmakers vowing to withhold their support for the measure until the reconciliation bill is addressed. 

Top Democrats are looking to act on both bills before the end of the month. 

President Biden publicly acknowledged on Friday that the final spending bill will be less than $3.5 trillion. 

“To be honest with you, we’re probably not going to get $3.5 trillion this year. We’re going to get something less than that. But I’m going to negotiate, I’m going to get it done,” he said in Hartford, Conn.


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