Sanders wanted the letter to include a line criticizing Sinema’s moderate stance amid tense inter-party negotiations over how to get President Joe Biden‘s agenda passed.
Last week, left-wing activists launched a protest against Sinema outside a classroom at Arizona State University over her opposition to Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social reform bill. They filmed themselves following her into a bathroom, chanting ‘Build back better, back the bill!’
In an email exchange obtained by Axios, an aide for Senator Cory Booker said the New Jersey lawmaker volunteered to write a statement on behalf of Democratic leadership to ‘resolutely condemn’ the incident.
The draft calls protesters actions’ ‘plainly inappropriate’ and ‘crosses a clear line.’
Sanders’ communications director Mike Casca replied asking if the statement could also take a jab at Sinema’s position over the same issue she was confronted about.
‘While we hope Senator Sinema will change her position on prescription drug reform and support a major reconciliation bill…’ Sanders’ team proposes.
Bernie Sanders told Cory Booker’s team he would not be signing the joint statement condemning the Sinema protest and to remove ‘Democratic Leadership Team’ from the headline
Booker reportedly refused Sanders’ proposal.
Casca replied the next day, ‘Sanders will not be signing, so please cut “Senate Democratic Leadership Team” from headline.’
Bipartisan lawmakers have stood up to condemn the demonstration against Sinema
Lawmakers who reportedly did sign on are: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, Virginia Senator Mark Warner, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who’s joined Sinema as the two lone Democratic holdouts over the spending bill in the Senate, also signed the letter.
Sinema said the demonstration against her was ‘not legitimate protest’ and ‘wholly inappropriate’ in a Monday statement.
This latest fracture in Democratic party unity reflects the growing hostility between the progressive and moderate wings.
The divide has grown over Biden’s sweeping $3.5 trillion bill, which hit multiple roadblocks in the form of moderate Democrats who think the price tag is too high.
With no Republican support, Democrats are looking to pass the measure via the reconciliation process. That would mean all 50 Democrat Senators would have to vote to pass the bill.
Sinema was confronted at Arizona State University by a group of left-wing activists who followed her into a bathroom last week
Late last week House Democrats missed a self-imposed deadline to pass a smaller, bipartisan infrastructure bill because the 93-member Progressive Caucus threatened to tank it if the larger bill wasn’t voted on first.
Sanders slammed the pair on Wednesday night for being the only two members of their party’s 50-person caucus to stand against it.
‘Two people do not have the right to sabotage what 48 want – what the president of the United States wants. That, to me, is wrong,’ the far-left Vermont Senator said during a press conference.
Sanders’s press conference came after Manchin announced he was sticking to his stance that the package should be capped at $1.5 trillion. Sinema said should wouldn’t make her negotiations public.
Sanders pointed out that 96 percent of both the Senate and House’s Democratic caucuses support the plan, with 210 out of 220 members voting ‘yes’ in the House. ‘And, by the way, the president of the United States supports this bill,’ he said.
Bernie Sanders slammed senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for being the Democratic caucuses two ‘no’ votes on Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan
‘Let me tell you who is vigorously opposed to this legislation and I think that it’s important that the American people understand,’ he noted before digging into lobbyists in the pharmaceutical, health insurance and fossil fuel industries who he said are pouring resources into blocking the plan.
‘And it goes without saying that the billionaire class and large corporations are spending a fortune in opposition to this bill because they love the idea that [they] don’t pay a nickel in federal income tax,’ he added.
Explaining his view to reporters on Capitol Hill, Manchin, a moderate from West Virginia, decried the spending plans key welfare provisions and said, ‘I cannot accept our economy or basically our society moving towards an entitlement mentality … that you’re entitled.’
Sanders lambasted Manchin’s comment in a play-by-play of the bill’s plans and who they would be benefitting, first citing the proposal to extend $300 direct child tax payments, which have helped cut childhood poverty, through 2025.
Sanders asked, ‘Is protecting working families and cutting childhood poverty an ‘entitlement? Does Senator Manchin think we should once again have one of the highest levels of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth?’
Manchin said that the bill’s welfare provisions make America an ‘entitlement society’
The reconciliation package would also expand Medicare to cover dental care, hearing aides and eyeglasses. Sanders asked, ‘Is that really too much to ask in the richest country on Earth — that elderly people have teeth in their mouth and can see and can hear?’
‘Does Senator Manchin not believe that we have to end the absurdity of the United States paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, sometimes ten times more for a particular drug than it’s paid for in Canada or other countries around the world?’
‘Does Senator Manchin believe that we should be the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave and that working mothers should not be able to stay home with a child who is sick. Are workers not entitled to be able to do that?’
He continued in the same fashion by addressing the bill’s plans for affordable housing, community college and universal pre-K for families who ‘are paying 25 or 30 percent of their incomes on childcare so they could go out and do their jobs.’
But, ‘perhaps most important,’ Sanders said, is the bill’s goals of targeting climate change and laid into the senator who he said has not delivered a concise plan for how he plans to address it.
‘The time is long overdue for him to tell us with specificity, what he wants and what he does not want and to explain that to the people of West Virginia and America . . . I do not understand how, at this time in world history, you cannot talk about the crisis of climate change and tell us what you want to do. That is really inexcusable.’
Biden is trying to negotiate a path between the two factions of his party and has conceded the overall price tag will have to come down
Biden is trying to negotiate a path between the two factions of his party and has conceded the overall price tag will have to come down.
He spent the past two days in virtual calls with various members of the House – speaking to liberals on Monday and moderates on Tuesday as he tries to get those two groups on the same page as Manchin and Sinema so he can pass his agenda.
But even if he gets the House on board he could run into an additional roadblock in the Senate with Sanders and fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren.
Sanders also pointed out the $3.5 trillion was already a compromise – leftists originally wanted $6 trillion.
Manchin has been circulating his $1.5 trillion plan since July, setting out what he said was a way to limit the impact on inflation. His measures include means testing on new programs, including health care, child care and education.
The huge bill will be funded with tax hikes that mainly target the rich.
They included raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 26 percent for the biggest companies, and the top income tax rate for Americans making over $400,000 would increase from 37 percent to 39.6 percent. The top capital gains rate would also go from 20 percent to 25 percent.
The bill is being steered through Congress using budget reconciliation rules that prevent Republicans blocking it. At the same time, it means just one Democrat can deny Biden the simple majority needed for its passage through the Senate.
Sanders said Wednesday, ‘My concern with Mr. Manchin is not so much what his views are, I disagree with him, but it is that it is wrong, it is really not playing fair that one or two people think that they should be able to stop what 48 members of the Democratic caucus wants, what the American people want, what the President of the United States wants.’