Sanders insists Dems’ spending package remain at $3.5 trillion

WASHINGTON (Axios): Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, on Wednesday insisted that the Democrats’ budget proposal should remain at $3.5 trillion, dismissing calls from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for a lower number.

Driving the news: Manchin has warned the White House and Congress leadership that he has concerns about the proposal and is willing to support as little as $1 trillion of it. His vote is crucial in the 50-50 Senate.

  • At most, the West Virginia senator is open to supporting $1.5 trillion, sources told Axios’ Hans Nichols.

What they’re saying: “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 said that an “overwhelming majority” of the Budget Committee members supported his original $6 trillion bill, adding that he still believes more than $3.5 trillion is necessary.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also addressed the issue, saying that “it is our intention to have every part of the Biden plan in a big and robust way.”

Schumer rejected Manchin’s call for a “strategic pause,” saying: “We’re moving full speed ahead. We want to keep moving forward. We think getting this done is so important to the American people … We are moving forward with this bill”

  • Catch up quick: Manchin had called for the pause to “provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic,” adding that it will also “allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not.”

Between the lines: With a 50-50 split Senate, Manchin’s doubts on the bill mean that the budget for President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda are in danger of dying this Congress.

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