Sanders hits Sinema for opposing reforms on drug prices, corporate taxes

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Bernie Sanders' ex-spokesperson apprehensive over effectiveness of SALT deductions BBB threatens the role of parents in raising — and educating — children MORE (I-Vt.) on Thursday expressed exasperation over Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaWith extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Five Senate Democrats reportedly opposed to Biden banking nominee MORE’s (D-Ariz.) opposition to raising taxes and empowering Medicare to negotiate lowering prescription drug prices amid intraparty debates on the multitrillion-dollar budget reconciliation package.

Asked if he was surprised by Sinema’s opposition to raising corporate taxes, which poses a major obstacle to a deal on the legislation, Sanders replied: “I am surprised that there is anybody in the United States Senate not prepared to do what the American people want, and that is demand that the wealthiest people in this country start paying their fair share of taxes and that we end all of the tax loopholes that the wealthy enjoy.

“I am very surprised that anybody would put themselves in that position,” he added.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sanders also vented frustration over Sinema’s resistance to empowering Medicare to use its negotiating power to lower the cost of prescription drugs, a reform that could raise as much as an estimated $700 billion that could be used to pay for the human infrastructure spending package.

“It is beyond comprehension that there is any member of the United States Congress who is not prepared to vote to make sure that we lower prescription drug costs,” he added.

He said “lowering the cost of prescription drugs [is] very popular” and that “80 percent of the American people in poll after poll after poll they say lower the cost, have Medicare negotiate.”

Sanders said he believes the pharmaceutical industry has spent about $500 million in advertising and lobbying expenses and campaign contributions to defeat a pending proposal to lower prescription drug prices.

Asked about Sinema’s opposition to what most Democrats want included in the reconciliation package, Sanders said: “I would say that Senator Sinema, every Republican and every person in the House [should] do what the American people want and they want us to lower the outrageous costs of prescription drugs.”

“I would hope that Senator Sinema does what the people in Arizona want and what the people in America want,” he added.

Sanders’s tough words directed at Sinema come a week after he published an op-ed in The Charleston Gazette-Mail calling out centrist Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinWith extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season White House looks to rein in gas prices ahead of busy travel season MORE (D-W.Va.) for resisting a proposal to lower prescription drug prices and expand Medicare benefits.

“Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation. Yet, the political problems we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote ‘yes.’ We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.),” he wrote.

That criticism didn't sit well with Manchin, who later dismissed Sanders as an “out-of-stater.”

“Sen. Sanders’ answer is to throw more money on an already overheated economy while 52 other senators have grave concerns about this approach,” Manchin wrote on Twitter.

Sanders and Manchin have since tried to patch up their differences and have met several times this week in an effort to reach a deal on a framework agreement by sometime this month.

Manchin said Thursday that negotiators would be unable to reach a deal on such a framework by the end of the week, as had been previously hoped.