Stressing a need to pass the “enormously important” Build Back Better bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders said this week that failure to do so would indicate to Americans that Democrats “don’t have the guts to take on the powerful special interests.”
The Vermont Independent’s remarks on MSNBC‘s “Rachel Maddow Show” on Monday night came after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced on Fox News that he was a “no” on his party’s social spending and climate reconciliation package, delivering a potential death blow to the legislation his opposition had already weakened.
The announcement prompted ire from progressive groups as well as renewed demands from some Democrats that the Senate be brought back into session so that Manchin would have to go on record for voting against a bill that would provide much-needed benefits to his own constituents and beyond.
Does Congress have the guts to take on the drug companies who are spending over $300 million in lobbying? Do we have the guts to take on the insurance companies who don’t want us to expand Medicare? Do we have the guts to take on the fossil fuel industry to save the planet? pic.twitter.com/X1FcATOEDn— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 21, 2021
In an apparent reference to Manchin and another right-wing Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Sanders criticized “two senators” who’ve acted with regards to BBB negotiations that “it’s my way or the highway.”
Such a stance, said Sanders, is “an arrogance that I think is unacceptable.”
He also rebuked “people like Mr. Manchin,” who are “turning their backs on the working families of this country, allowing the big money interest once again to prevail and basically saying, ‘If I don’t get everything I want, I’m not going forward.’ That is not acceptable to me.”
What has to happen now, he said, is for leadership to bring the BBB bill to the Senate floor for a vote. Then, Manchin “will have to tell the people of West Virginia and this country why he is supporting all of the powerful special interests in this country—the drug companies, the insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry, the very wealthy who do not want to pay anything more in federal taxes.”
Another step is for Democrats to have better messaging around the bill, said Sanders. He gave as one example the monthly checks from the expanded Child Tax Credit families are poised to see cut off-—”despite the fact we’ve reduced childhood poverty through that by almost 40%.”
The focus right now, Sanders said, must not be solely on Manchin but instead fall more broadly.
“It is about the Democratic Party trying to restore faith with the American people that they actually stand for something,” said Sanders.
“Do we have the guts to take on the drug companies who are spending over $300 million in lobbying right now? Is that the Democratic Party?” he asked.
“Do they have the guts to take on the private insurance company who do not want us to expand Medicare and dental, hearing, and eyeglasses?” he added. “Do we have the courage to do what the scientists are telling us has to be done and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel?”