Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'It's not coming out'

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersWTO faces renewed scrutiny amid omicron threat Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan MORE (I-Vt.) said Saturday that the expansion of Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision coverage is staying in the human infrastructure bill despite doubts from President Biden.

Biden said Thursday during a CNN town hall that it would be a “reach” for the spending bill to include the Medicare expansion due to opposition from moderate Democrats Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinTrump haunts Biden vaccine mandate in courts IRS data proves Trump tax cuts benefited middle, working-class Americans most Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Dems press drillers over methane leaks MORE (W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (Ariz.).

Both Manchin and Sinema hold significant sway in a 50-50 Senate — Democrats need all 50 of their party's lawmakers to pass their social spending package through a process called reconciliation. 

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The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill,” Sanders tweeted on Saturday.

“It’s what the American people want. It’s not coming out,” he added.

Biden said during the town hall he supports the idea but is just not sure if it will get done. 

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“That’s a reach and the reason why it’s a reach — I think it’s a good idea and it’s not that costly in relative terms especially if you allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices,” Biden said. “But here’s the thing — Mr. Manchin is opposed to that as is, I think, Sen. Sinema.”

He explained Manchin was opposed to the expansion of Medicare because he “doesn’t want to further burden Medicare … because it will run out of its ability to maintain itself in X number of years.”

Democrats have been negotiating for weeks to get an agreement on the spending bill that includes provisions to extend an expansion of a child tax credit, address climate change, provide universal pre-K, and funding for public housing, among other things. 

Manchin balked at the original $3.5 trillion price tag, and the party's leaders have scrambled to come to an agreement on a pared-down package, which may wind up in the $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion range. 

However, Democrats — particularly progressives including Sanders — have grown frustrated with Sinema over her opposition to key proposals in the bill. 

In particular, Sinema is opposed to raising the corporate tax rate and empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, according to lawmakers briefed on talks. 

“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,” Sanders told reporters Thursday. 

“I would say that Sen. Sinema, every Republican and every person in the House do what the American people want, and they want us to lower the outrageous costs of prescription drugs,” he added.

--Updated on Oct. 24 at 5:43 a.m.