Bernie Sanders says he plans to persuade progressives to help pass $3.5T spending package

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Tuesday, July 20, 2021 to discuss the National Security Powers Act.
Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suggested he will try to persuade progressives to help pass the $3.5 trillion spending package the Senate approved early Wednesday as Democrats work to keep their caucus together in the evenly split upper chamber.

“I am absolutely confident that while we fight to get as strong a package as we can, at the end of the day I think all of us will recognize that we are in the process of bringing forth transformative legislation,” Sanders told USA Today on Wednesday.

Senate Democrats approved a budget resolution in the early hours of Wednesday, the first step to allowing them to pass their massive $3.5 trillion spending plan through reconciliation, which will bypass a potential Republican filibuster by requiring only a simple majority for approval.

While the resolution passed the first hurdle in the upper chamber with full support from the Democratic caucus, some members are now airing concerns about the package, which would pump trillions of dollars into initiatives such as immigration reform, climate change and universal pre-K.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of the caucus’s most moderate members, voted for the budget resolution but later said he has “serious concerns” about spending $3.5 trillion on a package “given the current state of the economic recovery.”

He said it is “irresponsible” for Congress to “continue spending at levels more suited to respond to a Great Depression or Great Recession — not an economy that is on the verge of overheating.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), another moderate Democrat, already signaled that she will not back a $3.5 trillion price tag and will work to reduce the package as negotiations progress in the coming weeks.

Some progressives, however, have said they are unwilling to drop the price of the package lower than $3.5 trillion. They are looking for the bill to do more to address climate change and other issues compared with the $1 trillion bipartisan package the Senate approved on Tuesday.

Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, recognized the thin majority his party is working with and the need to appease all sides to get the massive package passed.

He said an “enormous amount of work” will be needed to strike a compromise among the countless differing opinions.

“People have got to appreciate we are not operating with a significant majority,” the senator told USA Today.

“[Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] has three or four votes in the House, zero votes to spare in the Senate. So we are operating with the thinnest possible majority, and it’s going to require an enormous amount of work to bring people together who have different points of view,” he added.

Tags Bernie Sanders Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Nancy Pelosi

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