With Democrats’ Build Back Better package hanging in the balance, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Thursday called out fellow Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for “acting like Republicans” as they continue to withhold support from their party’s popular legislative agenda.
“They’ve got to come forward to the American people and say, ‘Hey, we don’t think you need help.’”
“You got 50 people in the Republican caucus,” Sanders said in an appearance on MSNBC Thursday night, amid reports that the Senate GOP is “watching from the sidelines with glee” as Build Back Better talks falter.
“We have gotten no support from them to lower the cost of prescription drugs, to expand Medicare to include dental, hearing, eyeglasses,” said Sanders. “No support from them for child care, for housing… No support to deal with the existential threat of climate change.”
“You got 48 people in the Democratic caucus… and a president of the United States prepared to think big,” the Vermont senator continued. “And you have two Democrats who, in my view, are kind of acting like Republicans.”
Sanders, who helped craft the original $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan that has since been slashed in half by corporate Democrats, said that while he respects the alternative viewpoints of his colleagues, “I do not respect the arrogance of any member of the Senate who says, ‘You know what, I’m going to torpedo this entire bill,’” which the Vermont senator noted is popular with the U.S. public, including 89% of Democratic voters.
“You got two people who say, ‘You know what, hey if you don’t do it my way—I don’t care what the president wants, I don’t care what 48 of my colleagues want—it’s my way or the highway,’” Sanders said. “And that I regard as arrogance… You fight for your ideas, but you don’t say, ‘My way or the highway.’”
Manchin, who for months has been one of the chief obstacles to passage of the Build Back Better Act, threatened to derail the package once again this week by demanding—behind closed doors—that Democrats zero out the expanded child tax credit, which will lapse if Democrats don’t approve the reconciliation package before the end of the year.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) noted in a recent analysis that Democrats’ program “increased the child tax credit for more than 65 million U.S. children—roughly 90% of children.” In its current form, the Build Back Better Act would extend the program for another year.
“An estimated 9.9 million children are at risk of slipping back below the poverty line or deeper into poverty if the expansion is not extended,” CBPP warned.
Sanders told reporters earlier this week that if Manchin and other right-wing senators truly want to end the boosted child tax credit, “they’ve got to come forward to the American people and say, ‘Hey, we don’t think you need help.’”
“Let them tell the American people that,” Sanders added.