Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Democrats must act quickly to pass the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, after moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who holds a key vote, called for pausing further action on the bill until the current inflation is assessed.
“You can’t slow it down,” Sanders told The New York Times in an interview this weekend while in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he was championing the sweeping legislation.
The $3.5 trillion package (pdf) contains a whole host of climate change and social program items, including mandating green-energy vehicles, universal childcare, universal preschool, free community college, and expanding Medicare.
Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have been the most vocal among Democrats about not supporting the level of spending in the budget resolution because of its possible effects on the economy.
Manchin wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, “A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not.” Adding, “I have always said if I can’t explain it, I can’t vote for it, and I can’t explain why my Democratic colleagues are rushing to spend $3.5 trillion.”
Sanders, however, was clear about the urgency he feels to get the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan passed as soon as possible but was also aware that it will take all 50 Democrats in the Senate to vote in favor of the resolution. The budget reconciliation process could allow Democrats to pass the measure with no votes from GOP senators.
“Within a little while, everything is going to become political. The only way you get things done historically in Congress is in the first year of a session, where you can escape a little bit from the partisan politics,” Sanders said.
Manchin has expressed concern multiple times about that level of spending adding to the already $28 trillion national debt and rising inflation, but Sanders and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) expressed confidence in corralling all 50 senators to vote for the $3.5 trillion package.
Schumer was asked by a local ABC news reporter on Sunday if he can convince all members of his party, particularly Manchin and Sinema, to vote in favor of the massive spending bill.
“I’m going to do my best and you know so far, after some discussion, and some compromise they have gone along with previous bills, let’s hope it happens again,” said Schumer. “I have a caucus that runs from Bernie Sanders on the left to Joe Manchin, on the right. How do I bring them all together when you only have 50 votes and every one of them counts?”
Like Schumer, Sanders said he speaks directly to his caucus members each day, to further negotiations on the budget bill.
“After a lot of negotiations and pain—and I’m going to be on the phone all week—what we are going to do is pass the most comprehensive bill for working families that this country has seen,” Sanders told NYT.