Tensions between centrist Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.V.) and progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) over a sweeping social spending bill spilled over into public view on Wednesday, with Sanders taking aim at the West Virginia Democrat during a fiery press conference.
Sanders blasted Manchin for his recent comments that he does “not believe that we should turn our society into an entitlement society.”
He also implored the West Virginia Democrat and moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — two key votes due to the Democrats’ razor-thin majority — to provide specifics on what they would like to see in the massive spending bill.
Both Manchin and Sinema have expressed concerns over the price tag of the bill, which aims to tackle some of the Biden administration’s top priorities including climate change and the expansion of social programs, with Manchin proposing they spend closer to $1.5 trillion.
Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters that “two people do not have a right to sabotage what 48 want,” suggesting that they are not in sync with the majority of the Democratic caucus.
“I am not exactly sure what he means by that. Does that mean that we end the $300 direct payments for working class parents, which have cut childhood poverty in this country as a result of the American Rescue Plan, in half?” Sanders said at the Wednesday press conference.
“Does Sen. Manchin not believe what the scientists are telling us, that we face an existential threat regarding climate change. And that it is absolutely imperative that we move boldly to cut carbon emissions?”
Sanders noted that Manchin has been “extremely critical of the $3.5 trillion proposal,” but alleged that he has failed to provide specifics on what he believes the measure should address.
“The time is long overdue for him to tell us with specificity — not generalities, but beyond generalities, with specificity — what he wants and what he does not want, and to explain that to the people of West Virginia and America,” he added.
Manchin — who has called for Congress to pause on the massive bill and raised concerns over its potential impact on inflation — fired back on Sanders’ criticisms in a statement noting their discrepancies in their ideologies.
“Respectfully, Senator Sanders and I share very different policy and political beliefs,” he said in a statement. “As he and I have discussed, Senator Sanders believes America should be moving towards an entitlement society while I believe we should have a compassionate and rewarding society.”
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