Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted Democrats’ massive climate and healthcare bill on Saturday evening as senators tried to pass a major piece of Biden’s economic agenda after more than a year of debate.
“I want to take a moment to say a few words about the so-called Inflation Reduction Act that we are debating this evening,” Sanders said just after joining Democrats in advancing debate on the proposal. “I say so-called because according to the CBO and other economic organizations that have studied this bill, it will in fact have a minimal impact on inflation.”
For much of the week, Sanders has torn into the $740 billion proposal brokered by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin, which would invest millions in green energy, lower some prescription drug prices, and impose a 15 percent minimum tax on large corporations.
Sanders’ mention of the CBO, or Congressional Budget Office, is a nod to the nonpartisan scorekeeper’s finding that the proposal is negligible, at least in the immediate future, NPR previously reported.
The Vermont independent intends to introduce amendments to change the bill, such as one measure that would empower Medicare to pay an amount equal to the Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription drugs. Sanders later stood alone as both Democrats and Republicans rejected his amendment to cap costs for covered prescription drugs under Medicare parts B and D by a 99 to 1 vote.
Both Georgia Democrats, Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, later joined Sanders on an amendment that would require Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing benefits. But once again, the Vermont senator’s effort failed via a lopsided vote, this time 3 to 97. A third Sanders amendment to create a Civilian Climate Corps also failed to garner any additional votes in favor.
Republicans have used the CBO’s findings as fodder to lambaste the Democrats’ proposal. Some have previously used Sanders’ exact approach of referring to the proposal as “the so-called Inflation Reduction Act.”
“I don’t find myself saying this very often. But on that point, I agree with Bernie,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranked Senate Republican, told Insider.
Sanders has fumed over the elements that were jettisoned from Biden’s larger “Build Back Better” agenda to advance the compromise, including universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, and in-home care for the elderly.
The Vermont senator and former presidential candidate added that the legislation contains “good features” but also criticized its inclusion of a drug pricing provision that will take years to kick in. He later called it an “incredibly tepid bill.” Sanders also ripped the provisions in the bill that would expand some fossil fuel exploration, an addition that helped secure Manchin’s support.
Sanders pressed Democratic senators to address “the major crises facing working families” during his floor speech.
“If we cannot do that, not only will people continue to hurt and suffer but to my mind, it is questionable how long we will remain a democracy,” he said on Saturday.
Sen. Ron Wyden, who help write the legislation as chairman of the powerful Finance committee, said he shared Sanders’ hope for a bill that went further in many areas. But on drug pricing, in particular, Wyden argued the bill still takes major steps.
“I’ve said I’d like to do more myself, more quickly — there’s no question about that those are my roots,” Wyden told reporters, adding that when faced “between inaction and this, for me it’s not a close call.”
This report was originally published on Insider.