- Sanders assailed Manchin’s bill on Tuesday night as woefully inadequate.
- He urged Democrats to amend the bill since it omitted many programs like childcare.
- Manchin’s bill also excluded universal pre-K, student debt relief, and the Biden child tax credit.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont tore into the $740 billion climate, energy, and tax package that Democrats hope to pass within days. He said it dropped a wide range of Democratic initiatives at the core of the defunct, $2 trillion House-approved Build Back Better Act.
“At a time when the United States has the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major nation on earth, this bill does not extend the $300 a month per child tax credit that you had last year,” the Vermont independent said in a Tuesday evening floor speech, referring to the monthly cash payment program that expired last year.
“If you are a parent today paying $15,000 a year for childcare, the average cost in America, this bill ignores that crisis completely and does absolutely nothing for you,” he said, pointing to the provision in last year’s House bill establishing affordable childcare costs at no more than 8.5% of a family’s income.
Sanders also brought up other proposals that were jettisoned from the package. Those included:
- Universal pre-K
- Medicare expansion to cover dental, vision, and hearing benefits
- Tuition-free community college
- In-home care for the elderly
- Affordable housing funds
He had other complaints about the bill as well. Sanders said the provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs were both “extremely weak” and “extremely complex.” But he did concede there were “some good and important” climate programs while bashing a program that Manchin secured to free up more oil and gas leasing.
Sanders had long pushed for an expansive social and climate bill, which at one point totaled $6 trillion in spending over ten years. The party settled on a $3.5 trillion spending blueprint last summer. That was whitttled down further during fall 2021 until Manchin tanked it at the end of the year.
Senate Democrats are using a maneuver called budget reconciliation to avoid a Republican filibuster and pass the bill with a simple majority in the evenly-split Senate. But all 50 Senate Democrats must coalesce around the bill to eventually send it to President Joe Biden for his signature.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Manchin struck a spending deal “only Bernie Sanders would love.” That seems to be a stretch given Sanders didn’t call for an immediate vote.
“Now is the time for every member of the Senate to study this bill thoroughly and to come up with amendments and suggestions as to how we can improve it,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.