The gaping political divisions among Democrats over President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social welfare and climate change bill were put on public display in West Virginia on Friday.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders penned an op-ed in the state’s largest newspaper, the Charleston Gazette-Mail, championing the bill and haranguing the Democratic holdouts preventing its passage. Mr. Sanders, in particular, attempted to shame West Virginia’s senior senator, Democrat Joe Manchin III, for his opposition to the package.
“Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation,” wrote Mr. Sanders, a self-described socialist from Vermont. “Yet, the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote ‘yes.’ We now have only 48.”
Democrats plan to use a special procedure to force the $3.5 trillion spending package through the Senate along party lines. The process, known as budget reconciliation, allows some spending and tax measures to avoid the 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Given that the Senate is evenly split between the two parties, Democrats cannot afford to lose single. At the moment, Mr. Manchin and another moderate, Krysten Sinema of Arizona, are the lone Democratic holdouts within the Senate.
“This is a pivotal moment in modern American history,” Mr. Sanders wrote.
The editorial elicited a nearly immediate slap down from Mr. Manchin, the lone statewide Democrat left in increasingly Republican West Virginia.
“This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement.
Arguing that the policies advocated by the $3.5 trillion were wrong for a country in the throes of inflation, Mr. Manchin said he would oppose any effort to throw “more money on an already overheated economy.”
“To be clear, again, Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs,” he said. “No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that.”
The dust-up is only the most recent in a months-long back and forth between Mr. Manchin and Mr. Sanders over the $3.5 trillion spending bill.
Dubbed “human infrastructure,” the massive bill includes a trove of long-sought liberal priorities, including free community college, expanded Medicare and new regulations to arrest climate change.
Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema say the bill is too ambitious and should be trimmed and means-tested. Far-left Democrats, including Mr. Sanders, object to cutting out any major programs, saying instead that overall costs can be cut by making the legislation run for five years instead of ten.