Washington — Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, predicted Sunday that Democrats will "come together" to pass the $3.5 trillion social spending package under consideration in Congress, even as two key Senate Democrats remain steadfast in their opposition to the plan's cost.
"I expect, because of the pressure of the American people, we're going to come together again and do what has to be done," Sanders, an independent who votes with the Democrats, said in an interview on "Face the Nation."
Democratic-led House committees completed work last week in crafting their respective portions of the massive $3.5 trillion package, which includes President Biden's plans for universal pre-K, expanding Medicare, child and elder care, and the environment. But while the president hasCongress will send the measure to his desk, Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have pushed back at the legislation's price tag, warning they are unwilling to support a bill of that size.
Mr. Biden met with the two senators separately at the White House last week as part of continued efforts to push his agenda through Congress.
Despite the unflinching opposition to the $3.5 trillion price tag from Manchin and Sinema, Sanders indicated Sunday that he will not scale down the legislation to win their support.
"I have already made, and my colleagues have made a major compromise, going from six trillion down to three and a half trillion," Sanders said. "Right now what we are doing is we are engaging with the House and the Senate. It is a complicated proposal. All I am telling you is the $3.5 trillion is much too low. A compromise has already been made; an agreement has been made."
Democrats are using a process called reconciliation to fast-track the ambitious social spending plan, which allows it to clear the Senate with a simple majority, and without needing Republican support. But Democrats hold 50 seats in the upper chamber, and opposition from Manchin or Sinema would sink the legislation.
Because of the margins in the Senate, Sanders said Democrats have to use reconciliation to pass the plan, which makes up a significant portion of Mr. Biden's domestic policy agenda and includes policies Democrats have been pushing for years.
"Right now, we have no Republican support. Zero. There's not one Republican who was prepared to stand up to the drug companies and lower the cost of prescription drugs. Not one Republican who wants to build affordable housing," he said. "We can't do it without the reconciliation package."
Sanders said because Democrats hold 50 seats in the Senate, they're "going to have to work it out."
"At the end of the day, I think what the overwhelming majority of the American people want us to do is finally stand up for them, not just the drug companies and the healthcare industry and the fossil fuel industry," he said. "This is what we are trying to do. It's an enormous fight. We're going to win it."
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