Joe Manchin taunts Bernie Sanders by making a zero with his hand during social spending negotiations: 'I'm comfortable with nothing'

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Bernie Sanders Joe Manchin
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Joe Manchin (W-Va.) Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Axios reported that Joe Manchin told Bernie Sanders he is comfortable spending nothing on the reconciliation bill.

  • Sen. Jon Tester, who witnessed the exchange, said Sanders and Manchin "are in different spots."

  • Sanders has not held back in calling out Manchin for stalling Biden's economic agenda.

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders and Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to deciding how much to spend on Democrats' social welfare bill - and a recent conversation the two lawmakers had made that very clear.

On Wednesday, Sanders and Manchin met privately to hash out their disagreements with Democrats' reconciliation bill, given that Sanders has supported a $3.5 trillion price tag while Manchin said he wants it closer to $1.5 trillion. Axios reported that during the meeting, Manchin said he would be comfortable spending nothing at all on the bill, per Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who witnessed the exchange.

"'Joe said, 'I'm comfortable with nothing,' Bernie said, 'We need to do three-and-a-half [trillion dollars].' The truth is both of them are in different spots,'" Tester told Axios.

Tester said that Manchin formed a "zero" with his thumb and index finger when telling Sanders he would be okay spending zero dollars on Biden's economic agenda.

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, who also recounted the exchange to Axios, said Manchin told Sanders "we shouldn't do it all," referencing passing the social-spending bill. Manchin, along with Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, have been holdouts of their party's proposals.

The initial $3.5 trillion legislation has already been scaled back - President Joe Biden suggested the final price tag could be as low as $1.75 trillion - with Biden reportedly willing to cut funding for free community college from the bill. Clean-energy initiatives are also on the chopping block, as well as a shorter-than-anticipated extension of the $300 monthly child tax credit checks to families and a rollback of Trump's tax cuts.

Sanders has been vocal about his frustration toward his two colleagues. He accused Sinema and Manchin of selling out Biden's agenda to Big Pharma, given their opposition to his proposal to lower prescription drug costs in the bill.

"See where they get their money, how many of them get their money from the pharmaceutical industry, and the executives there," Sanders told reporters. "And I think there will be a direct correlation."

He also said that "two people do not have the right to sabotage what 48 want, what the president of the United States wants," directly referencing the two moderate Democrats.

Although some House Democrats are hoping to have a framework for their social-spending bill by the end of this week, Insider reported on Thursday that Manchin indicated that probably won't be happening.

"This is not gonna happen anytime soon, guys," Manchin told reporters. Sinema echoed that sentiment - when asked if a deal can be reached by Friday, she told reporters: "Don't ask me. I can't answer that question."

Read the original article on Business Insider