Sanders says spending plan should be $3.5T 'at the very least'

Sanders says spending plan should be $3.5T 'at the very least'
© Greg Nash

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Pelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill top line higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war MORE (I-Vt.) said on Wednesday that President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE's sweeping spending bill should be at least $3.5 trillion, putting him on a collision course with key moderates who think the figure is too high.

"That $3.5 trillion is already the result of a major, major compromise, and at the very least this bill should contain $3.5 trillion," Sanders told reporters on a conference call.

Sanders's remarks come as moderate Sens. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaDemocrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (D-Ariz.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Biden, Xi talk climate at UN forum Election reform in the states is not all doom and gloom Manchin presses Interior nominee on leasing program review MORE (D-W.Va.) have warned they can't support a $3.5 trillion top-line figure for the Democratic-only bill.

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Manchin, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, warned that he "won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs."

Axios reported on Tuesday that Manchin is only willing to go as high as $1.5 trillion, which would significantly pare down Democrats' ambitious spending package that is expected to include expansions to Medicare, immigration reform and combating climate change, among other priorities.

A spokeswoman for Manchin didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the Axios report. But Manchin previously indicated that he was open to a spending package of around $1 trillion to $2 trillion on the Democratic-only plan.

"If they think in reconciliation I’m going to throw caution to the wind and go to $5 trillion or $6 trillion when we can only afford $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion or maybe $2 trillion and what we can pay for, then I can’t be there," Manchin told ABC News's "This Week" earlier this year.

Democrats passed a budget resolution last month that unlocks their ability to pass a spending bill of up to $3.5 trillion without GOP support in the Senate. They are proposing paying for the bill, in part, by raising taxes on some corporations and high-earning individuals.

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But to get the bill through the Senate without Republicans, they'll need total unity from all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus. That means Biden and congressional Democratic leaders will need to figure out a way to reconcile progressives — who have fumed at talk of going smaller — with moderates like Manchin. 

Schumer during Wednesday's conference call with Sanders and Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSanders says spending plan should be .5T 'at the very least' Senators call on Taiwan for aid in automotive chip shortage Photos of the Week: Infrastructure vote, India floods and a bear MORE (Mich.), the No. 4 Senate Democrat, predicted Democrats would be able to pass a bill, but sidestepped directly answering a question on if he was willing to go below $3.5 trillion.

"There are some in my caucus that believe $3.5 trillion is too much, there are some in my caucus who believe it's too little," Schumer said.

"We're going to all come together to get something big done and second it's our intention to have every part of the Biden plan in a big and robust way," Schumer added.