Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday called Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema out by name for undercutting their own party’s legislative agenda, including desperately needed action to rein in carbon emissions, reduce income and wealth inequality, and protect abortion rights.
“It should not be a head-scratcher,” Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told MSNBC‘s Chuck Todd after the host expressed confusion as to why congressional Democrats ended up with nothing to show for months of negotiations on Build Back Better, a central component of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda that proposed billions in spending on climate action and poverty-reducing social programs.
The legislative package passed the House in November but died in the Senate due largely to Manchin and Sinema’s obstruction.
“You’ve got two members of the Senate, Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema, who have sabotaged what the president has been fighting for,” Sanders said Sunday.
When Todd interrupted to suggest “sabotaged” was a “strong word,” Sanders replied: “Well, you help me out with a better word here. You got 48 members of the Senate who wanted to go forward with an agenda that helped working families, that was prepared to take on the wealthy and the powerful. You got a president who wanted to do that. You had two people who prevented us from doing that.”
“You have a better word than ‘sabotage’? That’s fine,” Sanders continued. “But I think that is the right word.”
Sanders went on to urge the people of West Virginia and Arizona to bring pressure to bear on Manchin and Sinema, both of whom receive substantial campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry, Big Pharma, and other corporate sectors that had a financial interest in tanking the Build Back Better package.
“Why don’t you stand up for ordinary Americans and not just your wealthy campaign contributors?” Sanders asked in a message directed at his Senate colleagues. “Why don’t you have the guts to take on the drug companies and the insurance companies and the fossil fuel industry?”
Sanders’ remarks came days after Manchin teamed up with Senate Republicans for a second time to filibuster legislation that would enshrine abortion rights into federal law as the U.S. Supreme Court’s right-wing majority appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade—and as the GOP strategizes for a potential nationwide abortion ban.
Next Monday, a coalition of grassroots progressives in West Virginia and Arizona plan to engage in marches, protests, and other nonviolent direct actions at Manchin and Sinema’s home-state offices to pressure them to drop their support for the 60-vote legislative filibuster, a key obstacle to the Democratic agenda in the Senate.
“Bernie says it’s time for Arizonans and West Virginians to put pressure on Sinema and Manchin to stop sabotaging Biden’s plans,” Kai Newkirk, an Arizona-based activist and one of the organizers of next week’s demonstrations, wrote on Twitter Sunday. “If you agree, join us to rally, march, and sit in on 5/23 in Tucson and Charleston.”