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

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

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Wednesday that President Biden’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 Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have warned they can’t support a $3.5 trillion top-line figure for the Democratic-only bill.

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.

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 Stabenow (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.

Tags Bernie Sanders budget reconciliation Climate change Debbie Stabenow Infrastructure Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema

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