Top Sanders aide calls Manchin a ‘phony’ on lowering drug prices

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Julia Nikhinson - Greg Nash

A top aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday called Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) a “phony” after the West Virginia senator called for action to lower drug prices.  

Warren Gunnels, Sanders’s staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, tweeted that Manchin’s call for drug pricing action was empty given the senator opposed President Biden’s Build Back Better package, which included measures to lower drug prices.  

“What a phony. THE reason we failed to keep our promises to seniors is because @Sen_JoeManchin sabotaged the Build Back Better Act & refuses to end the filibuster,” Gunnels tweeted. “In Joe’s world, protecting the filibuster is more important than protecting seniors. No wonder billionaires love him.” 

Gunnels was responding to a tweet from Manchin after the senator met with AARP’s West Virginia branch, stating: “By allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, capping the cost of insulin at $35 per month, and allowing the importation of drugs from Canada, we can lower prescription drug prices in America. We must take action & keep the promises we’ve made to our seniors.” 

Manchin has long supported action to lower drug prices, but it remains to be seen if he can reach a deal with Democratic leaders on a broader package that would include the drug pricing reforms. Because of Republican opposition, any measure must use the reconciliation process to bypass a GOP filibuster in the Senate.  

Action to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices is a top priority for vulnerable Democrats ahead of the midterms, and getting action on that front is a reason some Democrats still hold out hope some legislation will be able to pass this year. 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), another key moderate swing vote, has been the greater question mark on sweeping drug pricing action, though she did reach a deal with Democratic leaders in the fall to allow for Medicare to negotiate lower prices for a limited subset of drugs.  

Manchin, speaking at the AARP event on Tuesday, gave some hope to Democrats eager for a deal.  

“Drug pricing is something we all agree on,” Manchin said. “If we do nothing else this year — I think we can do a lot more — but if we do nothing more this year, that’s the one thing that must be done.” 

“We’re negotiating on a lot of things right now, and we’re going to see to make sure this is the highest thing on the order to get done,” he later added.  

Sanders and Manchin, representing opposite ideological ends of the Democratic caucus, have clashed before.  

When Manchin announced his opposition to an earlier version of the Build Back Better package in December, Sanders responded that he “doesn’t have the guts to stand up to powerful special interests.” 

Tags Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders Biden Build Back Better Joe Biden Joe Manchin Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Kyrsten Sinema Senate Budget Committee West Virginia

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