Senate

Sanders blames media for Americans not knowing details of Biden spending plan

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) blamed the media, in part, for Americans not knowing what is in a sweeping social spending plan being negotiated by the White House and Congressional Democrats.

Sanders, in a statement, said it is "absurd" that many Americans don't know what is in President Biden's plan and, while cautioning that there could be many reasons for that, launched a broadside against how the bill has been covered by the press.

"The reality that the mainstream media has done an exceptionally poor job in covering what actually is in the legislation," Sanders said.

"There have been endless stories about the politics of passing Build Back Better, the role of the president, the conflicts in the House and the Senate, the opposition of two senators, the size of the bill, etc. - but very limited coverage as to what the provisions of the bill are and the crises for working people that they address," he added.

Sanders's statement comes as Democrats are struggling to break through on the spending plan, amid an intense focus on the price tag for the bill and weeks of high-profile Democratic squabbling over the still-being-negotiated legislation. 

Democrats want to use the spending bill to carry some of their biggest priorities including expanding Medicare and Medicaid, new child care and education benefits, combatting climate change and overhauling the tax code. The specifics of what Democrats will ultimately include are still in flux as they try to figure the size of the bill and what policies can unite their razor-thin majorities.

While many of the ideas behind the spending bill are popular with voters, a CBS News poll released this week found that only 10 percent of Americans knew a lot about the specifics and 57 percent indicated they didn't know any details about the multitrillion-dollar proposal. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took a similar tack to Sanders earlier this week when asked about the CBS poll, telling reporters that "I think you all could do a better job of selling it, to be very frank with you."

The CBS News poll found that the potential cost of the bill topped a list of what Americans had heard about the legislation. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they had heard about $3.5 trillion in spending compared to 40 percent who said they had heard about lowering drug prices under Medicare or expanding Medicare to cover hearing, vision and dental - two big priorities for Democrats.

Democrats have been frustrated with the intense focus on the scope of the bill including what they will land on for a top-line number. Though House and Senate Democrats previously approved a budget that lets them pass a bill of up to $3.5 trillion on their own, bypassing a GOP filibuster, the final bill is increasingly expected to be significantly smaller.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key moderate vote, has put his top-line figure at $1.5 trillion, while the White House has floated a bill in the range of $2 trillion.

Asked about the size of the bill shrinking below $3.5 trillion, Sanders chided reporters during a recent press conference arguing that they were getting pulled back into "the game."

He added in his statement on Friday that "ignorance and lack of knowledge" were a threat to American democracy.

"It is hard to ask people to have faith in their government when they have little understanding of what their government is trying to do. ... The American people have a right to know what's in it. My hope is that mainstream media will fulfill their responsibilities and make that happen," Sanders added.

Outbrain