Tension rises between Manchin, Sanders over $3.5T reconciliation bill

Sen. Bernie Sanders is elevating his political battle with moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin as their differences over President Joe Biden’s massive $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” plan remain a stumbling block to the bill’s passage.

Infighting among Democrats, generally, over the plan is increasing as well and becoming more public weeks after party leaders initially anticipated passing the measure, The Hill reported Friday.

Sanders, a far-left Independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats and is head of the Senate Budget Committee, was the latest to fire verbal shots, this time taking aim at Manchin in his home state of West Virginia in an op-ed that will be published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Sunday.

“In America today, the very rich are becoming richer while millions of working families are struggling to put food on the table or pay their bills. We now have the absurd situation in which two multi-billionaires own more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans; the top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 92%; and the gap between rich and poor is wider than at any time in the last 100 years,” Sanders, who hit on a familiar class warfare theme, began.

“The $3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill, supported by President Biden and almost all Democrats in Congress, is an unprecedented effort to finally address the long-neglected crises facing working families and demand that the wealthiest people and largest corporations in the country start paying their fair share of taxes,” he wrote, going on to call out Manchin by name.

“Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation. Yet, the political problem 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,” noted Sanders.

He went on to say that Congress faced a “pivotal moment” with a “historic opportunity to support the working families of West Virginia, Vermont and the entire country and create policy which works for all, not just the few.”

Manchin responded immediately, calling on the Vermont native for injecting his politics into a state he doesn’t represent.

“This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state,” Manchin, who formerly served as West Virginia governor, said.

The Hill noted further that Manchin accused Sanders of attempting to “throw more money on an already overheated economy” while 52 of the Senate’s 100 members — himself, Sinema, and all 50 Republicans — “have grave concerns about this approach.”

“To be clear, again, Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs. No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that,” Manchin insisted.

The Hill noted that Manchin and Sanders are both members of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) leadership team but they don’t have a close working relationship and they represent opposite ends of the Democratic Party.

For instance, Manchin was part of a bipartisan group of senators who negotiated a $1 trillion infrastructure bill over the summer that has also yet to pass. Afterward, Sanders called on far-left allies in the House to block the bill, though he voted for it in the Senate, if the measure was introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) without first bringing up and passing the larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.

Sanders’ op-ed comes amid escalating rhetoric last week in which he rejected the notion that he, Manchin, and Sinema should sit down in a room and hammer out their differences. Last week, he noted during a call with reporters: “The time for us to be negotiating with ourselves is over, and I think it is absolutely incumbent on the two senators … to start telling us what they want,” Sanders said, The Hill reported.

Manchin has said he would support a bill costing $1.5; Sanders has not said what level of spending he would support below the $3.5 trillion figure.

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