The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has said that he and President Joe Biden are looking at the “reality for working families” as he argues the Senate has become “bogged down in numbers” during the debate about the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan.
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Mr Sanders argued that it was more important to focus on the “needs of the American people, what’s going on right now”.
“All that the president is doing, all I am doing, is taking a look at reality for working families. Understand their needs have been ignored for decades. Now it is time to create good-paying jobs, millions of good-paying jobs, addressing health care, housing, infrastructure,” Mr Sanders said.
The Independent senator and runner-up in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, said he was planning to speak to every Democratic Senator to figure out how to get an infrastructure deal through Congress, while placating moderates and progressives alike.
Host Dana Bash noted that the Biden infrastructure agenda is moving on two tracks, one bipartisan, and a package Democrats are pushing on their own, an effort led by Mr Sanders.
“The bottom line here is that the bipartisan proposal provides spending in some very important areas – roads, bridges, water systems – and that’s the good. That’s good,” Mr Sanders said. “The amount of money that they are proposing is about one quarter of what the president talked about in terms of new money. That’s not adequate, and what we should be also watching carefully is how it’s paid for.”
He said he would not support some of the proposals put forward, such as raising the gas tax or fees on electric cars.
The $6tn reconciliation package pushed by Mr Sanders, which would only need 50 votes in the Senate, would likely include things like paid family leave and eldercare, items sometimes referred to as human infrastructure.
“You have also indicated that it could go beyond that, address the climate crisis, Medicare, even immigration. So, I know you speak with President Biden frequently. You have his blessing to go this big?” Dana Bash asked Mr Sanders.
“What I think the president has done is give us a blueprint as to where we want to go. And I think it’s a serious and comprehensive blueprint,” Mr Sanders said.
He added that the “very rich are doing phenomenally well. Corporate profits are soaring”.
“And yet we have – in terms of real wages for working people, it’s lower today than it was 48 years ago. Half of our people are living paycheque to paycheque.
“Let’s go through the issues. Does anyone think that childcare in America is satisfactory? It is a disaster. Working families can’t pay $15,000, $20,000 a year for childcare. We got a housing crisis. How do you not deal with climate? You tell me.
“Look at what’s going on in California, Australia. Scientists tell us we have a few years left before there’s irreparable damage. Of course you have to deal with climate.
“We’re the only major country on Earth not to have paid family and medical leave,” the Senator added.
“Meanwhile, large corporations and the rich avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and we have to address that as well,” he said.
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