Sen. Bernie Sanders defended the squabbling between progressive and moderate Democrats that threatens to torpedo President Biden’s legislative agenda and predicted the two spending bills worth trillions of dollars will move forward together.
“This is a long and complicated process, which is dealing with the most consequential piece of legislation probably since the New Deal in the Great Depression. It’s a big deal, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
“The president is absolutely right. It doesn’t matter whether it’s next week or three weeks from now, what matters is that we finally address the problems facing working families. That’s what matters,” he said, adding later that “at the end of the day, we’re going to pass both pieces of legislation.”
Progressives in the House want the Senate to pass a sweeping $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that funds a number of social safety net programs before they will vote on the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal.
But Democratic senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have expressed concerns about the price tag, with Manchin floating a $1.5 trillion topline on the reconciliation bill.
The Senate passed the bipartisan bill last month by a 69-30 vote.
Sinema and Manchin’s opposition in the narrowly divided 50-50 Senate has led to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delaying a vote several times last week so that negotiations can continue.
Without the support of either Manchin or Sinema, the social spending plan is doomed in the Senate.
On Saturday, Pelosi announced a Halloween deadline for the House to act on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Sanders said he understands that there will have to be “give and take” in the negotiations.
“What the president has said is that there’s going to have to be some give and take, and I think that that’s right. I think if anything … when we especially talk about the crisis of climate change and the need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, the $6 trillion that I originally proposed was probably too little,” Sanders said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
“Three and a half trillion should be a minimum, but I accept that there’s gonna have to be give and take,” he said.
Cedric Richmond, a senior White House adviser, also predicted that both bills will eventually be approved by Congress.
“The president wants both bills and he expects to get both bills. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, has said that they’re going to pass both bills and we believe that because we know that both bills are very popular and both meet the needs of the people right now,” Richmond said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“And so, we’re going to continue to work on both, keep our heads down and make sure that we deliver,” he continued.
The president traveled to Capitol Hill last Friday to push his agenda and sided with House progressives that action has to be taken on the social spending bill before the House will take up the bipartisan deal.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Biden has given in to the progressives.
“What we’re seeing is like watching an episode of the ‘Twilight Zone.’ I thought Joe Biden went to The Hill on Friday to try to get that bipartisan infrastructure bill passed and instead he surrendered to the radical wing of his party,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, balked at Manchin’s suggested $1.5 trillion price tag.
“Because that’s too small to get our priorities in,” Jayapal (D-Wash.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“So it’s going to be somewhere between $1.5 and $3.5. And I think the White House is working on that right now, because, remember, what we want to deliver is child care, paid leave, climate change, housing,” she said.