Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks Sanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan MORE (I-Vt.) on Wednesday said that efforts to finalize and vote on a roughly $3.5 trillion dollar Democratic spending bill is being delayed because of corporate lobbying.
In a new op-ed published on Fox News, Sanders blamed the delay on the “human infrastructure” bill on lobbying efforts from the pharmaceutical industry, private health insurance companies and the fossil fuel industry.
“As part of our corrupt, big-money dominated political system, the pharmaceutical industry is now spending hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying, campaign contributions and television ads to defeat this legislation because it does not want Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices,” Sanders alleged in the op-ed.
He further claimed that pharmaceuticals had hired close to 1,500 lobbyists, including former leaders from the Republican and Democratic parties, “to protect their interests.”
Sanders also wrote that private health insurance companies were “spending tens of millions of dollars to defeat this bill because they do not want Congress to expand Medicare to provide dental, hearing, and vision benefits and they apparently do not want seniors to receive the quality care they need in their own homes.”
The longtime senator further added that the fossil fuel industry was launching a campaign against the Democratic spending bill because “it seems to be more concerned about protecting their short-term profits than addressing the existential threat of climate change.”
Sanders’s comments come as Democrats are trying to resolve an impasse on both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and their much larger, $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. Progressives are eager to pass the reconciliation bill alongside bipartisan legislation, and among the Democratic spending package’s features, it would include expanding Medicare to cover hearing, dental and vision, provisions for universal pre-K and making community colleges tuition-free, and clean energy initiatives.
However, several moderates — chiefly Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks Climate activists target Manchin Hoyer signals House vote on bill to 'remove' debt limit threat MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks Sanders, Manchin escalate fight over .5T spending bill Biden gets personal while pitching agenda MORE (D-Ariz.) — have said that they do not support the overall price tag. Earlier this month, Manchin said he could support a figure between $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion.
That led Democrats to rethink how to adjust funding on programs included in the Democratic package and also derailed attempts at putting the bipartisan bill, which already passed the Senate, to a vote in the House — much to the frustration of Sinema and several other moderates.
Though the reconciliation package can bypass a Republican filibuster with just 50 votes and a tie-breaker from Vice President Harris, Sanders said that whether Democrats can pass their larger spending bill “comes down to Democratic unity.”
“Will all Democrats stand together to protect the interests of the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor? Will all Democrats stand together to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry, and wealthy campaign contributors?” Sanders wrote. “I certainly hope so.”