Sanders says Biden sees progressives as ‘strong part of his coalition’
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that President Biden “sees the progressive movement as a strong part of his coalition,” even as recent debates over the federal minimum wage and coronavirus relief have revealed some divisions between liberal and more centrist Democrats.
In an interview with The New York Times published Tuesday, Sanders, a leading voice on the left, said congressional Democrats are largely united with the Biden administration in efforts to respond to the health care and economic crises fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.
The new Senate Budget Committee chairman, citing the the large portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt opposite the Resolute Desk that he saw when he walked into his first Oval Office meeting with Biden last week, told the Times, “President Biden understands that, like Roosevelt, he has entered office at a time of extraordinary crises and that he is prepared to think big and not small in order to address the many, many problems facing working families.”
“There is an understanding that if we’re going to address the crises facing this country, we’re all in it together,” Sanders added.
Biden’s former 2020 Democratic presidential primary opponent added that already in the president’s first three weeks in office, he has spoken frequently with him, as well as White House chief of staff Ron Klain, with Sanders saying that his calls to the White House have been returned “very shortly.”
Biden, Sanders said, “sees the progressive movement as a strong part of his coalition” and “is reaching out to us and is adopting some of the ideas that we have put forth that make sense in terms of today’s crises.”
Despite opposition from Republicans, Democrats appear largely united in their effort to advance Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, as well as in a collective desire to hold former President Trump accountable in his Senate impeachment trial this week.
Trump faces a single article of impeachment after the House accused him with inciting the violent Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, which led to the deaths of five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Two additional officers who responded to the rioting have since died by suicide.
However, Sanders over the weekend condemned some fellow Democrats who he says are looking to lower the income eligibility thresholds for coronavirus stimulus checks from $75,000 to $50,000 for individuals and from $150,000 to $100,000 for couples.
On Thursday, the Senate voted 99-1 on an amendment from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) related to “targeting” the checks and making sure that “upper-income taxpayers are not eligible.”
The moves come as the addition of two new Democratic moderates to the upper chamber — Sens. John Hickenlooper (Colo.) and Mark Kelly (Ariz.) — has strengthened the centrist wing of the caucus.
Manchin and other moderates have signaled opposition to raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is currently part of Biden’s coronavirus relief package, despite having support from Sanders and other powerful progressives in both chambers of Congress.