Oct 6, 2021

Bernie Sanders Press Conference Transcript: Reconciliation Bill

Bernie Sanders Press Conference Transcript: Reconciliation Bill
RevBlogTranscriptsBernie Sanders TranscriptsBernie Sanders Press Conference Transcript: Reconciliation Bill

Senator Bernie Sanders held a press conference to discuss budget reconciliation on October 6, 2021. Read the transcript of the briefing here.

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Senator Bernie Sanders: (00:00)
… of the Senate Budget Committee. I want to say a few words about the three and a half trillion dollar Reconciliation Bill that a number of us are fighting for, and I’d also like to make some brief comments about what Senator Manchin said earlier today. First, let us be clear, poll after poll, including polls in West Virginia show that what we are trying to do in this Reconciliation Bill is enormously popular among the American people. But it’s not just the American people who support what we’re trying to do. 48 out of 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus support the bill, and 210 members, about 96% of the House Democratic caucus support the bill. And by the way, the president of the United States supports the bill. And while we’re at it, let me tell you who is vigorously opposed to this legislation and I think it’s important that the American people understand that, because this is the corruption of American politics.

Senator Bernie Sanders: (01:12)
The pharmaceutical industry is currently spending hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying, on campaign contributions, on advertising to oppose this bill because they do not want to have us lower the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs in America. The health insurance industry is spending a huge amount of money because they do not want us to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eyeglasses. The fossil fuel industry, the coal companies and the oil companies are spending millions of dollars, despite the fact that the scientists are virtually unanimous in telling us that we must end our dependence on fossil fuel and move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy if we are going to save this planet. And it goes without saying that the billionaire class and large corporations are spending a fortune in opposition to this bill because they love the idea that some of the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations in a given year do not pay a nickel in federal income tax, and they’re fighting to preserve that absurdity.

Senator Bernie Sanders: (02:40)
In other words, we are taking on some of the most powerful special interests in this country who will end up spending huge amounts of money in order to prevent us from doing what we should be doing, protecting the needs of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor, and protecting this planet for future generations. Now, Senator Manchin as I understand it talked about, today, about not wanting to see our country become an entitlement society. Well, I am not exactly sure what he means by that. Does that mean that we end the $300 direct payments for working class parents which have cut childhood poverty in this country as a result of the American Rescue Plan in half? Is protecting working families and cutting childhood poverty an entitlement?

Senator Bernie Sanders: (03:42)
Does Senator Manchin think we should once again have one of the highest levels of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth? At a time when millions of seniors in Vermont, in West Virginia, all across this country have teeth in their mouths that are rotting, when they can’t afford hearing aids in order to communicate with their grandchildren, and when they can’t afford a pair of glasses in order to read a newspaper, does Senator Manchin really believe that seniors are not entitled to digest their food and that they’re not entitled to hear and see properly? 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? Does Senator Manchin not believe that we have to end the absurdity of the United States paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, sometimes 10 times more for a particular drug than is paid in Canada or other countries around the world?

Senator Bernie Sanders: (04:52)
Does Senator Manchin believe that we should be the only major country on Earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave, and that working mothers should not be able to stay home with a child who is sick? Our work is not entitled to be able to do that. Does Senator Manchin believe that working class parents in West Virginia and Vermont should not have to pay… Does he believe that they should have to pay 25 or 30% of their incomes on childcare? All over this country, working class families are paying 25 or 30% of their incomes on childcare so that they could go out and do their jobs. Are the children of this country not entitled to high quality childcare and pre-K education? Does Senator Manchin not believe that working families in this country are entitled to affordable housing and that we should not have some 600,000 people in America, including many veterans, sleeping out on the streets?

Senator Bernie Sanders: (06:02)
The Senator Manchin not believe that at a time when we have a major labor shortage in many parts of this country because our young people lack the skills they need, that they are not entitled to at least two years of free community college so they can get the training in order to go out and get the good paying jobs that are there? And perhaps most importantly, does Senator Manchin not believe what the scientists are telling us? That we face an existential threat regarding climate change and that it is absolutely imperative that we move boldly to cut carbon emissions. Scientists have told us we’re on a red alert. Some of you know, a number of scientists receive the Nobel prize for their work on climate change.

Senator Bernie Sanders: (06:58)
Does Senator Manchin not believe that our children and grandchildren are entitled to live in a country and a world that is healthy and is habitable? Senator Manchin has been extremely critical of the three and a half trillion dollar proposal that many of us support, in fact, nine out of 11 members of the budget committee support. But the time is long overdue for him to tell us with specificity, not generalities, we’re beyond generalities, with specificity what he wants and what he does not want, and to explain that to the people of West Virginia and America. I look forward to working with Senator Manchin and everyone else in the Senate to pass a strong Reconciliation Bill, as well as a bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. Thank you. Garrett?

Speaker 2: (07:53)
Senator, you got there. I feel like for weeks, you have not wanted to take questions about other senators’ objection to this bill, especially Senator Manchin, but is it now incumbent upon him to come out and say, this is what I’m for, this is how I get-

Senator Bernie Sanders: (08:09)
That’s exactly what I’m saying here. Look, it’s very easy to use vague phraseology, even when you talk about one and a half trillion. As I understand it, Senator Manchin says he believes in Medicare negotiating prescription drugs. Okay, good, great. In the House Bill, that will save us $700 billion. Now Senator Manchin says that he only wants to spend 1.5 trillion. Is that in addition to the 700 which would already take you up to 2.2? I don’t know the answer to that. You don’t know the answer to that. Senator Manchin says he wants to tax the wealthy. All right, good. The House Ways And Needs Committee passed a proposal which includes, as I understand it, about $2 trillion in doing away with tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations. Is that where Mr Manchin is?

Senator Bernie Sanders: (09:04)
So it’s not good enough to be vague and I do not understand, to be honest with you, 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. As I’ve said many, many times, and I say this as a grandparent, I do not want my generation to have to look their kids and grandchildren in the eye and say, “Yes, we failed you and the planet is now uninhabitable.” Yeah?

Speaker 3: (09:33)
Senator, since we’re talking about specificity here and you’re looking for that from Senator Manchin, some of your house colleagues have said that they understand now that 3.5 is not a realistic top number. The president has also said that. Are you willing to concede that 3.5 is too much right now?

Senator Bernie Sanders: (09:49)
Look, am I willing to concede? No. What I do believe, 3.5 is too little to be Frank with you. Now, what I have said and will repeat is this is going to be a give and take. This is part of the process and we will be in the room in that give and take. Yes, ma’am? Understand

Speaker 4: (10:04)
Senator Sanders, do you and Senator Manchin just have different fundamental views of government’s role in society and what government should do? I mean, how do you resolve such philosophical differences?

Senator Bernie Sanders: (10:16)
Good. That’s a very good question. I’m not here to disparage Senator Manchin and I respect him for his… You’re right, we differ. What I would say is this, and I know a lot of the media talks about compromise and all that stuff. We got 48 senators who support three and a half trillion. We have two who do not. Now to be very honest with you, as I think all of you know, I believe that our current healthcare system is totally dysfunctional and I strongly, strongly believe in a Medicare for all single payer program. I could in five minutes go to Chuck Schumer, Senate majority leader and say, Chuck, I can’t support this bill unless you have a Medicare for all provision in there, but I’m not going to do that because I know, I don’t know how many, maybe half of the members of the caucus, a third of the members of the caucus, that would be irresponsible.

Senator Bernie Sanders: (11:09)
So my concern with Mr. Manchin is not so much what his views are, I disagree with him, but it is that it is wrong. It really not playing fair that one or two people think that they should be able to stop what 48 members of the Democratic caucus want, what the American people want, what the president of the United States wants. That would be my position. So Senator Manchin has a right to fight for this point of view. He has not only a right to be heard, he has a right to get some compromises, he’s a member of the Senate. But two people do not have the right to sabotage what 48 want and what the president of the United States wants. That to me is wrong. Yes Ma’am?

Speaker 5: (11:48)
Since you are the budget chairman and you obviously helped craft this 3.5 trillion plan, would it be feasible for you to get in a room with Senator Ma’am. and kind of hammer this out, and why hasn’t that happened to the point point?

Senator Bernie Sanders: (12:01)
Well, we do get in a room with Senator as part of leadership. I’m part of leadership and while going further, that discussion has taken place and I expect will continue to take place. Yes. Ma’am?

Speaker 6: (12:14)
In your discussions with President Biden, have you encouraged him to not scale that number back after his most recent comments?

Senator Bernie Sanders: (12:26)
Well, look, this is what I think. As I’ve said before, look, if we were in a room and in a caucus where half the people wanted some something lower and half the people wanted something higher, you’ve got to go somewhere in the middle. We’re not in that position so I think there’s got to be some give or take. But to ask 48 people to go down to where two people want, that just seems to be unfair, not to mention when poll after poll shows where the American people want us to be, it’s not where Mr. Manchin is. All right, maybe one or two questions. Yes, sir?

Speaker 7: (12:57)
Senator, when you listed off the measures that are popular that you seem to think Manchin is opposed to, is it your understanding that Senator Manchin is calling for significant cuts to be pulled out of this or is there still a conversation alive about means and-

Senator Bernie Sanders: (13:10)
Well, that’s a great question. Ask him. I mean, that’s exactly my point. We need some specificity here. It’s not good enough to be vague. Do you want to cut childcare? How much do you want to cut childcare? You want to cut climate? Cut climate, but how much do you want to do that? Tell us with some specificity what you want. All right. Last question. Ma’am?

Speaker 8: (13:29)
So you’ve called out Senator Manchin. Would you also like to see specificity from Senator Sinema as to what she would-

Senator Bernie Sanders: (13:37)
Absolutely. Senator, as I understand it, I’m not privy to everything here. In some cases, you guys know more than I do, but I think Senator Sinema’s position has been that she doesn’t, quote unquote, negotiate publicly. And I don’t know what that means. We don’t know where she’s coming from. What I have heard, and I don’t know if this is accurate, this is a problem, 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 have heard, maybe I’m wrong. But I think to answer your question, yeah, I would love to see her, in the same sense as Senator Manchin, tell us what you want and don’t mind. Thanks very much.

Speaker 9: (14:25)
Thanks everybody.

Speaker 10: (14:34)
He’s as close as you can get to I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.

Speaker 11: (14:38)
That was one of my favorite press conferences in a while. I really enjoyed it. I just really enjoyed it.

Speaker 12: (14:46)
Congrats on having a good question.

Speaker 11: (14:47)
Oh, yeah.

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