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Bernie Sanders dismisses sitting down with Manchin and Sinema to settle their big differences on the Democratic social spending bill: 'This is not a movie'

Oct 9, 2021, 01:37 IST
Business Insider
Sean Rayford/Getty Images
  • Sanders doesn't think life resembles an Aaron Sorkin plot and dismissed the idea of meeting with Manchin and Sinema.
  • "I don't know if you are a movie writer. This is not a movie," he told reporters.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont doesn't believe that life resembles something out of Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing," a TV program that often showed there was no problem in American politics that couldn't be solved with eloquent appeals, skilled maneuvering, or a clever solution that appeased warring sides.

The Vermont independent on Friday shot down the idea of negotiating with Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona face-to-face, telling reporters on Capitol Hill,"It's not a movie. I don't know if you are a movie writer. This is not a movie."

He labeled Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as a pair of obstructionists holding up the bulk of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda.

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"My criticism of Senators Manchin and Sinema is not their views, but my strong criticism is when the American people, President and 90% of your colleagues want to go forward, it is wrong to obstruct," he added, per the Associated Press's Farnoush Amiri.

Through the summer, Sanders had been tight-lipped when asked about Manchin's concerns regarding a $3.5 trillion social spending bill. But the Vermont independent took the gloves off on Wednesday in a 15-minute speech lambasting the West Virginia Democrat for offering vague explanations of his priorities despite repeated meetings with Biden and top White House officials.

Sanders demanded Manchin make clear what he wants to cut, arguing "the time is long overdue." Then he rattled off a list of Democratic priorities ranging from eldercare, a revamped child tax credit, universal Pre-K, Medicare expansion, tuition-free community college and green energy initiatives among others.

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"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," Sanders said, echoing Biden's remarks from earlier in the week.

"I was able to close the deal with 99% of my party," Biden said at a White House press conference with a laugh and holding up two fingers. "Two. Two people."

Manchin and Sinema wield outsized influence over Biden's plans to expand the social safety net. It's critical for Senate Democrats to hold onto the pair's votes because they need unanimity in their ranks to approve a $3.5 trillion social spending plan using a legislative maneuver known as reconciliation, bypassing GOP opposition.

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For his part, Manchin says there isn't any rush to negotiate the finer details of the social spending plan. He argues it shouldn't carry a price tag above $1.5 trillion while Sanders is holding firm at $3.5 trillion. Biden and other top Democrats have conceded the size of the package must shrink to pacify frugal moderates.

Manchin has called for a "strategic pause" and warned against setting up generous benefit programs that could allow the US to slip into an "entitlement mentality."

"Respectfully, Senator Sanders and I share very different policy and political beliefs," Manchin said in a Wednesday statement. "As he and I have discussed, Senator Sanders believes America should be moving towards an entitlement society while I believe we should have a compassionate and rewarding society."

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Sanders said on Friday he "hoped to God" that Democrats don't end up with nothing - a scenario more resembling the plot of Josh and Benny Safdie's "Uncut Gems" than Sorkin's "West Wing."

"There is that possibility," he told reporters. "I think it's a minimal possibility but that possibility exists."

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