Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., who represent the poltical polar opposites of the Democratic caucus, have been clashing over the price tag of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which has become the most significant part of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda. 

The massive spending bill is set to cover a wide range of social issues such as paid family leave, free community college, combating climate change, funding childcare, universal pre-K, and healthcare, and expanding Medicare to include vision, hearing, and dental. 

 

 

Manchin has previously stated that he will support the process of getting the bill to the floor but he will not vote for a bill that exceeds $1.5 trillion. Manchin has cited the trillions of dollars the U.S. government has already spent during the pandemic and isn’t willing to go much further. 

“I said, 'hell no, Bernie.’ I'm not voting for three-and-a-half trillion,” Manchin said at a recent West Virginia event.  Manchin added that he is “willing to work” with Sanders. 

Sanders, on the other hand, has been determined to make the $3.5 trillion price tag the floor for the bill after initially asking for a $6 trillion bill that Sanders says “an overwhelming majority” of the Senate budget committee supported. 

“That $3.5 trillion is already the result of a major, major compromise and at the very least this bill should contain $3.5 trillion," Sanders said in a call with reporters.

Sanders has even said he would be willing to travel to West Virginia to ask Manchin’s constituents to pressure the right-leaning Democrat into voting for the bill. Progressives have maintained they are willing to kill the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate in August until the reconciliation bill makes it to the floor of the House. 

"Nothing would give me more pleasure than to tank a billionaire, dark money, fossil fuel, Exxon lobbyist-drafted, 'energy' infrastructure bill if they come after our childcare and climate priorities,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has been determined to get both bills passed in the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said she will not let either bill come to a vote in the House until they do. 

“There are some in my caucus that believe $3.5 trillion is too much. There are some in my caucus who believe it's too little," Schumer told reporters during a conference call. "We're going to all come together to get something big done.”

Despite Manchin’s reservations, Schumer says that the party is “moving full speed ahead.”