Sen. Bernie Sanders: Let Manchin 'Vote No in Front of the Whole World'

Susan Jones | December 20, 2021 | 7:11am EST
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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) refuses to support the Democrats' multi-trillion social agenda. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) refuses to support the Democrats' multi-trillion social agenda. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

( - A furious Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Budget Committee, said on Sunday that Sen. Joe Manchin lacks the "guts" to "take on the drug companies and to expand home health care.

Sanders spoke shortly after Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, told "Fox News Sunday" that he is a "no" on the so-called "Build Back Better Act (BBB)," which is many Democrat bills in one.

Without Manchin's vote, the multi-trillion-dollar bill, with its new entitlement and climate programs, cannot pass. Not a single Republican supports the bill.

"Well, look, we have been dealing with Mr. Manchin for month after month after month," Sanders told CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper. "But if he doesn't have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world."

A number of Democrats are now pressing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to hold a roll call vote on BBB to put Manchin on the spot.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter released Monday, Schumer said the Senate "will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act, very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television. We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act – and we will keep voting on it until we get something done."

Manchin told "Fox News Sunday" that he's had "reservations," expressed publicly from the very beginning about the "mammoth piece of legislation."

Manchin said he's been "working diligently" for almost six months, meeting with people from across the political spectrum, from President Joe Biden on down. 

"I've done everything humanly possible," Manchin said on Sunday:

And you know, my concerns I had, and I still have these concerns, and where I'm at right now, the inflation that I was concerned about, it's not transitory, it's real, it's harming every West Virginian.

It's making it almost difficult for them to continue, to go to their jobs, the cost of gasoline, the cost of groceries, the cost of utility bills -- all of these things are hitting in every aspect of their life.

And you start looking at -- then you have the debt that we're carrying, $29 trillion, you have also the geopolitical unrest that we have. You have the COVID -- the COVID variant, and that is wreaking havoc again, people are concerned. I've been with my family, I know everyone is concerned.

So when you have these things coming at you the way they are right now, I've always said this, Bret, if I can't go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can't vote for it. And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can't.

I've tried everything humanly possible. I can't get there.

Host Bret Baier, surprised, asked Manchin, "You're done? This is -- is this a no?"

"This is a no on this legislation," Manchin confirmed. "I have tried everything I know to do, and the president has worked diligently. He's been wonderful to work with. He knows I've had concerns and the problems I've had.

"And, you know, the thing we should all be, is directing our attention towards the variant, the COVID that we have coming back at us in so many different aspects in different ways. It's affecting our lives again.

"We have inflation that basically could harm -- really harm a lot of Americans, and especially those who are most needy and having a hard time struggling right now. So I think that's where attention needs to be directed towards immediately."

Sanders told CNN he thinks Manchin is "going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia to tell him why he doesn't have the guts to take on the drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs, why he is not prepared to expand home health care."

Sanders continued:

West Virginia is one of the poorest states in this country. You got elderly people and disabled people who would like to stay at home, are forced into nursing homes. He is going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he doesn't want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and eyeglasses.

I have been to West Virginia a number of times, and it's a great state, beautiful people, but it is a state that is struggling. And he's going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he's rejecting what the scientists of the world are telling us, that we have to act boldly and transform our energy system to protect future generations from the devastation of climate change.

What's going on now, Jake, in Washington is the big money interests are pouring hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure that we continue to pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, that the rich do not start paying their fair share of taxes.

And I would have hoped that we could have had at least 50 Democrats on board who had the guts to stand up for working families and take on the lobbyists and the powerful special interests.

We have no Republicans. Not one Republican in the United States Senate or the House, for that matter, is prepared to stand up to the drug companies or the insurance companies or the wealthy. I would hope we would have had 50 Democrats.

But if that is the case, that I hope that we will bring a strong bill to the floor of the Senate as soon as we can. And let Mr. Manchin explain to the people of West Virginia why he doesn't have the guts to stand up the powerful special interests.

Sanders said BBB faced formidable opposition, not just from Manchin but from "special interests."

Let's not kid ourselves. We got a corrupt -- we have a corrupt political system dominated by big money interests. And, finally, some of us are saying, let's stand up for working families. Average workers have not seen a pay raise in inflation accounted for dollars in 45 years, while the rich are becoming phenomenally richer. Corporate profits are an all-time high.

"And what some of us are saying, maybe, maybe we will stand up for working families for a change. But, apparently, we don't have the 50 votes that we need. And I think we take that message right into the 2022 campaigns. Which party, with the exception maybe of one or two people, which party is prepared to do the right things for the elderly, for the children?

And, by the way, we talk about kids. I want everybody out there to know, if Mr. Manchin votes no, those $300 tax credits that have gone a long way to reducing childhood poverty in America, they're gone. That's over. We cut childhood poverty by over 40 percent, an extraordinary accomplishment.

Manchin doesn't want to do that -- tell that to the struggling families of West Virginia and America.

Sanders said he told Manchin, "I will pay for the damn poll in West Virginia on those issues, see how the people of West Virginia feel."

Democrats could always break apart BBB into its smaller components, passing various provisions piecemeal.

But as Sanders noted, 60 votes are required to pass such stand-alone legislation. Democrats were trying to ram through BBB using the reconciliation (budget) process, which requires only 51 votes for passage.

"Well, the problem that we have is that, obviously, you need 60 votes -- we have no support from Republicans -- to pass standing legislation," Sanders said.

"So it has to be done through reconciliation. So I haven't thought about that yet. But all I do know is that the dividing line in this country is going to be very clear. On one side of the -- one side of the equation, you're going to have Republicans, and I suspect Mr. Manchin, who say, yes, it's OK. We don't have to deal with the fact that billionaires in some cases don't pay a nickel in federal taxes.

"We don't have to deal with climate change. We don't have to deal with childhood poverty. We don't have to deal the high cost of prescription drugs. And on the other side will be those who say, yes, we do. And that tells me that we need a lot more than 50 Democrats in the United States."

Sanders noted that he and other congressional Democrats were justified in warning that passing the first infrastructure bill without BBB passing at the same time would doom the prospects for BBB.

"That was the fear. That fear, if Manchin continues along this path, turned out to be justified," Sanders said.

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