- Sanders said progressive priorities in the Build Back Better bill are crucial to the survival of democracy.
- “If we fail… the very fabric of American democracy is in danger,” the senator told reporters.
- Democrats are still trying to come to an agreement over the social spending bill.
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the progressive firebrand and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said on Wednesday that American democracy would be imperiled if key progressive priorities were left out of the “Build Back Better” reconciliation bill that is central to President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
Sanders made the comments to a group of reporters at the Capitol as Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema met with White House officials in a nearby room. Following questions from reporters about the status of various provisions in the bill that are now vulnerable to cuts, Sanders stopped and rhetorically raised the stakes of the negotiations.
“Let me just say a few words,” Sanders began. “Sometimes, when we’re inside the beltway, we lose track of reality and where the American people are.”
“So let me repeat. The American people are very clear about what they want their government to do,” he said, listing progressive priorities like lowering prescription drug costs, expanding Medicare to cover vision, hearing and dental health, taxing the rich, and addressing climate change.
“The challenge that we face in this really unusual moment in American history, is whether we have the courage to stand with the American people and take on very powerful special interests,” Sanders said. “And I’m going to do everything that I can support the president’s agenda, and make sure that we do just that.”
Sanders then raised his voice, seeking to emphasize the urgency of his message.
“If we fail – in my view, if the American people do not believe that government can work for them and is dominated by powerful special interests, the very fabric of American democracy is in danger,” he declared. “People will no longer believe have faith that their government represents them. That’s what this issue is about.”
Democrats had hoped to pass both the Build Back Better bill and the $US1 ($AU1) trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill this week before President Biden travels to Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday for the COP26 climate crisis conference, an outcome that now appears unlikely.