Bernie Sanders isn’t holding back anymore, accusing Sinema and Manchin of selling out Biden’s agenda to big pharma

Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders. Joshua Lott/Getty Images
  • After months of relative quiet, Bernie Sanders keeps calling out Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema by name.
  • In his latest press conference, he implied their policies are linked to donations from big pharmaceutical firms.
  • Sinema opposed drug pricing reform, while Manchin is pushing for a lower social-spending price tag.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been letting loose lately.

With the two moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema opposing the passage of President Joe Biden’s $US3.5 ($AU5) trillion social-spending package, Sanders has held several press conferences, venting his frustration at the slow movement of a bill he shepherded as chairman of the budget committee.

On Friday, he went so far as to imply that their resistance to the spending bill comes from the prescription drug overhaul he wants to see included.

“Take a hard look at those people who are opposed to strong legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs and take a look at their campaign finance reports,” Sanders said during a briefing with reporters. “See where they get their money, how many of them get their money from the pharmaceutical industry and the executives there. And I think there will be a direct correlation.”

Insider previously reported that Manchin wants a $US1.5 ($AU2) trillion topline for spending, and while Sinema has not asked for a specific number, she has told the White House she’s opposed to the drug pricing proposals in the Democrats’ bill.

Although Manchin has expressed support for lower drug prices, his $US1.5 ($AU2) trillion topline would make it hard for Democrats to deliver on that reform.

“I am going to fight for the strongest piece of legislation that we can,” Sanders said, with reference to drug pricing. “I think I’m going to begin calling out some of those members of Congress.”

During his Wednesday press conference, Sanders lambasted Manchin and Sinema for using “vague phraseology,” saying, “it’s not good enough to be vague.” Two days later, he seemed to draw his own conclusion: That their vagueness was connected to the pharmaceutical lobby.

Sanders said he would “absolutely” like to hear more details from Sinema on her demands, saying he has “heard that she is opposed to having Medicare negotiate prescription-drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and lowering prescription-drug prices.”

Insider’s Kimberly Leonard previously reported on the healthcare provisions in the social-spending bill. It would allow the federal government to negotiate the price tags of at least 50 of the most-used and highest-priced prescription drugs, including insulin. And people on Medicare would pay no more than $US2,000 ($AU2,735) a year for their medicines.

On Wednesday, Sanders appealed to the two moderates to essentially fall in line with their caucus, saying, “two people do not have the right to sabotage what 48 want, what the president of the United States wants.”

By his next appearance, Sanders’ attitude was hardening on negotiating with Manchin and Sinema face to face: “It’s not a movie. I don’t know if you are a movie writer. This is not a movie.”