Bernie Sanders just spent 15 minutes lambasting Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for holding up the Democrats' reconciliation bill, accusing them of 'sabotage'

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Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks to reporters as he leaves the US Capitol following a vote on October 05, 2021.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is ready to fight for the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package - and in a fiery press conference on Wednesday, he took directed his ire at the moderates holding back the spending plan.

He said that 48 out of 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus supported the bill, in addition to 210 members of the House: "And, by the way, the president of the United States supports this bill," Sanders added.

"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 later.

He was referring to the moderate Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have both said a $3.5 trillion price tag is too hefty. Manchin wants a $1.5 trillion measure; Sinema's desired size is unclear.

Sanders said he was unsure what Manchin meant by saying he did not want the country to become an "entitlement society." Sanders cited findings that $300 direct child-tax payments had helped cut childhood poverty. The Democrats' proposal would extend those payments through 2025.

"Is protecting working families and cutting childhood poverty an 'entitlement?'" Sanders said.

The reconciliation package would also expand Medicare to cover dental and vision, along with hearing aids. Insider's Kimberly Leonard reported seniors either had to buy those benefits as an add-on or enroll in the privatized version of Medicare.

"Does Sen. Manchin really believe that seniors are not entitled to digest their food and that they're not entitled to hear and see properly?" Sanders said. "Is that really too much to ask in the richest country on Earth - that elderly people have teeth in their mouth and can see and can hear?

Sanders called out Manchin for using 'vague phraseology,' saying, 'It's not good enough to be vague'

Sanders contrasted Manchin and Sinema's intransigence with his own beliefs about expanding healthcare.

"I believe that our current healthcare system is totally dysfunctional, and I strongly, strongly believe in a 'Medicare for All' single-payer program," Sanders said, adding that he could withhold his support for the bill since it didn't include Medicare for All, "but I'm not going to do that."

If maybe half or one-third of the caucus didn't support that provision, "it would be irresponsible" to act that way, Sanders said.

Sanders also highlighted Manchin's vagueness on the climate crisis, asking how "in this time in world history, you cannot talk about the crisis of climate change and tell us what you want to do? That is really inexcusable."

Joe manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin seen at the Capitol on June 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

At the end of the press conference, which focused primarily on Manchin, Sanders was asked about whether he'd like to see more specifics from Sinema, to which he responded "absolutely."

"I think Sen. Sinema's position has been that she doesn't, quote-unquote, negotiate publicly," Sanders said. "And I don't know what that means. We don't know where she's coming from."

Sanders added: "I have heard that she is opposed to having Medicare negotiate prescription-drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and lowering prescription-drug prices.

"I have heard that she is opposed to asking the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. That is what I've heard. Maybe I'm wrong. But, I think, to answer your question, yeah, I would love to see her."

It's the latest escalation of intraparty negotiations over infrastructure. When moderates expressed hesitation with the larger spending bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to bring forward just a bipartisan bill for a vote. But Sanders urged House Democrats to vote against the stand-alone bill, and the vote was ultimately pulled.

Biden has sided with progressives on a two-track approach, while also suggesting that the bill be pared down to about $2 trillion.

Sanders has made his stance clear. "I look forward to working with Sen. Manchin and everyone else to pass a strong reconciliation bill and a bipartisan infrastructure bill," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider