Bernie Sanders on Democrats' stalled agenda: 'We have not been addressing the needs of the American people'

“I think people are very impatient and not happy with where we are right now,” Sanders, I-Vt., told a group of reporters Wednesday night at the Capitol. “It’s not just members of the Senate.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to a reporter as he leaves the U.S. Capitol following a vote on Aug. 3, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to a reporter as he leaves the U.S. Capitol following a vote on Aug. 3, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Sanders continued: “We started off with a strong agenda that was very popular, and people responded to the president’s leadership. What we’re doing here in Congress, I think, it’s no great secret that for five months, with the exception of the infrastructure, we have not been addressing the needs of the American people.”

WHY BUILD BACK BETTER IS BOTH DEAD AND ALIVE

Sanders’ comments came after months of failed negotiations over President Biden’s signature social spending program, known as Build Back Better, that would tackle climate change and fund child tax credits, paid family leave, health care reforms and free pre-kindergarten. 

In order to pass in the Senate without GOP support, all 50 members of the Democratic caucus would have to stay united. But Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., effectively killed the legislation in December by saying he couldn’t support the $ 2 trillion package over concerns of inflation and national debt. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., defends the Senate's 60-vote filibuster in a floor speech on Jan. 19, 2022. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., defends the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster in a floor speech on Jan. 19, 2022.  (https://www.senate.gov/legislative/floor_activity_pail.htm)

MANCHIN SAYS HE ‘CANNOT VOTE’ FOR BUILD BACK BETTER: ‘I’VE DONE EVERYTHING HUMANLY POSSIBLE’

Democrats have been looking for a possible path forward since. A determined Sanders took to the Senate floor Wednesday night with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to force debate on their new legislation to empower Medicare to pay the same prices for prescription drugs as the Department of Veterans Affairs, arguing the change would lower the cost of prescription drugs for millions of Americans.

They asked for unanimous consent to proceed to the consideration of their legislation, but Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho objected. Sanders says he’s not giving up.

“What I believe we have to do now is take the components of Build Back Better, starting with prescription drugs, bring it to the floor, start debate, and we’ll see where we go,” Sanders said. 

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for the 59th presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol for President-elect Biden in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. 

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for the 59th presidential inauguration at the U.S. Capitol for President-elect Biden in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.  (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

He said the American people don’t really care about the things the Senate is now working on. 

“We’re voting for an assistant secretary of something today,” he said. “The American people are not staying up nights worrying about that. They’re worried about prescription drugs. They’re worried about climate. They are worried about home health care. They’re worried about a million issues. We’ve got to bring those issues to the American people.”

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