Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed a new proposal to shrink the Build Back Better plan from $3.5 to $1.75 trillion.
He called it the “by far the most significant piece of legislation ever passed in the world” to address climate.
But he also said House progressives should wait for Senate moderates to agree before they vote on infrastructure.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and a champion of the Build Back Better social spending bill, endorsed a new White House proposal released Thursday that would shrink the bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion and leaves out many progressive priorities.
“Amidst all of the dickering and the concerns, let us understand: this is by far the most significant piece of legislation ever passed in the world, I think, to deal with climate,” Sanders told reporters at the Capitol on Thursday.
While expressing disappointment that many of his priorities had been dropped from the bill, Sanders sounded an overall positive note, saying that the kinds of provisions contained in the bill hadn’t been passed by Congress since the 1960s.
“It goes a very long way to protecting the needs of working people, the elderly, children, the sick, and the poor,” he said. “And obviously, it does far, far more than ever before in terms of dealing with climate.”
Insider reported that the bill includes a $555 billion climate investment, a figure that’s not too far off from progressives’ initial ask and is the single largest part of the bill.
“You have the outline of a very significant piece of legislation that I want us to make better,” Sanders said, adding that he believes there’s still an opportunity to make changes to the bill’s framework.
Sanders again sought to tie the bill to the fate of democracy in the US after declaring on Wednesday that the “very fabric of American democracy is in danger,” if progressive priorities were dropped from the bill.
“I don’t want the American people to say look, once again, the drug companies won out or the insurance companies won out,” he said on Thursday. “I want the American people to say, you know what, on this occasion, working families won.”
Sanders touted other priorities still included in the bill, including cutting childhood poverty, expanding Medicare, and building affordable housing.
“This is a very big deal. I want to see it made even stronger,” he told reporters. To that end, Sanders signaled that he wants progressives to withhold their votes on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill until they can get solid agreement on the new framework from Senate moderates like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
“I think that the House should not be voting for the infrastructure bill unless they see very clear language and know that there are 50 senators on board, whatever the agreement may be,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for her part, called for a vote on the infrastructure bill on Thursday.
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