Bernie to Dems: Change course before diving in November
As majorities flash before Democrats’ eyes, the independent who caucus with them is asking its leadership, from President Joe Biden all the way, to recognize that the party can’t really do what it wants with two centrist senators as deciding votes. After that real conversation, Sanders wants Democrats to make the case for more Democratic power in 2023 — through a Newt Gingrich-style “Deal with America.”
It’s a long-running attempt to break the malaise hanging over the Democratic Party as Biden’s polls remain underwater and his senators grow nervous about holding onto their majority with Republicans favored to take the lead. Bedroom. Many Democrats are hoping that bad Republican candidates, a Biden bounce or a wave of last-minute modest legislation could help salvage their congressional majorities.
Sanders, however, is done with those happy thoughts.
« Tell the American people, ‘Listen, we don’t have the votes to do this right now. We have two corporate Democrats that won’t be with us,' » Sanders said, referring to Sens. Joe Manchin (DW. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona).
« Leaders need to come out and say we don’t have the votes to pass anything big right now. Sorry. You have 48 votes. And we need more to pass. That should be the message. of this campaign.
Sanders’ call comes at a precarious time for the party. Last year, Democrats united to pass a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, then worked with Republicans to pass a landmark infrastructure bill. But Manchin in December rejected the broader climate and jobs bill known as ‘Build Back Better’ and efforts to influence him and Sinema to weaken the legislative filibuster have failed. .
That left the nominal ruling party locked in on everything from abortion rights to guns to electoral reform.
Or, in the words of Sanders: “Two Democratic companies, Sens. Manchin and Sen. Sinema, have sabotaged [Build Back Better]. And it has continued to deteriorate for the Democratic Party ever since.
Manchin strongly objected to Sanders’ comment, saying in a statement that « I have never chastised Senator Sanders for his socialist views. It is too bad that he refuses to accept the more moderate opinions that I share with my constituents.
Sinema declined to comment for this story. She was widely seen in caucus as far more supportive of the $1.75 trillion bill passed by the House, replete with Democratic priorities, than Manchin.
Despite the divisiveness among the 50-member Senate Democrats, there is nonetheless a final burst of legislative activity on Capitol Hill. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is leading delicate talks with Republicans on gun safety legislation, giving Manchin and Sinema the two seats at that table. And the House and Senate are negotiating a bill to improve US competitiveness with China – which Sanders considers too generous to big business.
Manchin and Senate Majority Chuck Schumer met on Wednesday over a narrower climate and tax reform bill that could, in theory, pass before the election. The West Virginian wants legislation to cut the deficit, lower drug prices, raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations and invest in both clean energy and fossil fuel generation.
Schumer said afterward that he and Manchin were starting to go into specifics after their fourth recent meeting on the subject. But there is no deal yet, as many Democrats continue to hold out hope that a deal will materialize.
Don’t count Sanders among the optimists.
« They’ve been negotiating for nine months, » Sanders said of Schumer and Manchin. “It’s not exactly a very effective negotiation. And during those nine months, support for the Democrats dissipated very quickly.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also sounded the alarm about the situation for Democrats, pushing her party to deliver ahead of the election. Warren and Sanders are both part of Schumer’s leadership team, but she strikes a more restrained tone than Sanders – though she agrees with him that « we need to get the American people to understand that we need two additional Democrats in the U.S. Senate.
« No. 1 on our to-do list is to do the things we can. And No. 2 is to bring home how Republicans are preventing us in critical areas from doing the things this nation desperately needs on the planet. ‘abortion, guns, the right to vote, » Warren said. « We need to relentlessly hammer Republicans on what they won’t do. »
Still, Sanders isn’t exactly swallowing it all. It does not call for a primary challenge to Biden or whether the president should run for re-election. But he is trying to enlist the president in his effort to nationalize the Senate and House races.
Biden has already embraced some of Sanders’ arguments. The president asked Americans alarmed by the mass shootings to ‘turn your outrage into putting this issue at the center of your vote’, advised voters to ‘elect more pro-choice senators’ in May, noted in January that « 48 of 50 Democrats vote with me on everything » and said Democrats could come back with bigger majorities next year to pass « Build Back Better. »
Sanders wants even more sustained attention from Biden, advising him to say « I want to raise the minimum wage, I want to deal with medicare, I want to deal with housing, I want to deal with climate, I can’t do it ». . I need more votes. Sanders is also leaning on Biden to do whatever he can through executive action on these issues.
The White House did not respond to Sanders’ comments.
Without his prescribed pivot, Sanders fears the worst for the Democratic Party, in which he has twice sought the presidential nomination. He said “the level of enthusiasm within the Democratic base is extremely low. And it’s not just working class support that’s fading.
Young, Hispanic, Asian-American and Black voters are all moving away from Democrats, he warned: “Unless we turn around, voter turnout will be very, very low on the Democratic base.
Most Democrats don’t quite share this stark assessment. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who chairs the campaign arm of the caucus, agreed it’s « all about having 52 or more senators » and campaigning on unfinished business. But Peters doesn’t believe Democrats are walking into a buzzsaw this fall.
“You have people running around who are always about the Big Lie or trying to be as close to Trump as possible, disconnected from key issues,” Peters said. « There’s going to be a clear contrast for voters in the fall. »