Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tried to point the finger at Republicans who were standing in the way of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda — particularly his sweeping spending package known as Build Back Better and his party’s attempts to overhaul election law at the federal level — before admitting that if the opportunity arose, he would support primaries against Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (WV and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ).
Sanders joined CNN anchor Dana Bash on Sunday’s broadcast of “State of the Union” to discuss the situation on Capitol Hill, and he began by arguing that it was the 50 Republicans in the evenly-divided Senate who had made it their mission to obstruct President Biden’s agenda.
“We’re all hoping for a better 2022. For President Biden the year hasn’t started so well,” Bash began noting that Biden’s two biggest legislative goals — Build Back Better and the federal election overhaul — were stalled in the Senate, in part due to Manchin and Sinema refusing to allow any changes to the filibuster.
“Here we are one year into the Biden presidency. Those two key priorities are stalled in the Senate because Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema won’t get on board. How frustrated are you?” Bash turned the question to Sanders.
“It’s not only those two. It’s 50 Republicans who have been adamant, not only in pushing an anti-democratic agenda, but also opposing our efforts to try to lower the cost of prescription drugs, to expand Medicare to include dental, hearing and eyeglasses, to improve the disastrous situation in home health care, in child care, to address the existential threat of climate change,” Sanders said, shifting the blame to Republicans.
“You have 50 Republicans who don’t want to do anything except criticize the president. You have, sadly enough, two Democrats who choose to work with the Republicans rather than the president and who have sabotaged the president’s efforts to address the needs of working families in this country. Is it frustrating? It sure is,” Sanders continued, saying that the best way to move forward was to force a vote and make Republicans go on record with what they were opposing — and if Manchin and Sinema voted with Republicans, he said, the American people would see that as well.
“You got 50 Republicans who don’t want to do anything except criticize the president. And then you have, sadly enough, two Democrats who choose to work with the Republicans rather than the president, and who have sabotaged the president’s effort …”
— Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pic.twitter.com/TKacjfBtOd
— The Recount (@therecount) January 23, 2022
Bash noted that the Arizona Democratic Party had recently censured Sinema, asking Sanders whether he believed that had been an appropriate action.
“Absolutely it was. On that particular vote that she and Manchin — you have 19 states in this country undermining the foundations of American democracy, trying to make it harder for people of color, young people, people with disabilities to vote, coming up with extreme gerrymandering, taking action against independent election officials, and it is so important that we protect American democracy, that we stand up to the big lie of Trump and his allies that he really won the election. They undermined that effort,” Sanders insisted. “I think what the Arizona Democrats did was exactly right.”
Bash took her line of questioning a step further, asking, “Would you be willing to campaign against either Senator Sinema or Senator Manchin in a Democratic primary?”
Sanders protested a bit at first, noting that neither was up for reelection until 2024, but eventually made his position clear: “If there were strong candidates in those states who were prepared to stand up for working families, who understand the Democratic Party has got to be the party of working people, taking on big money interests, if those candidates were there in Arizona and West Virginia, yes, I would be happy to support them.”