OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
President Joe Biden, aware that Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are far apart regarding his massive $3.5 trillion spending bill, joked Saturday that there could be violence if the two were to share a room anytime soon.
Like, homicidal violence.
According to the Washington Examiner:
President Joe Biden joked on a phone call with Democrats that putting Sens. Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders in a room together to hash out the roughly $2 trillion difference in their visions of the social safety net expansions would result in “homicide.”
Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, suggested earlier this week on the call that the only way to reach a deal on the bill may be to put the centrist West Virginia Democrat in a room with Sanders, whose agenda comprises much of the bill, CNN reported. But their differences are so vast that Biden didn’t think they would be able to cut a deal one on one.
Other Democrats on the call, including Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, agreed with the president.
“I just think it’s a matter of getting them in the same room,” he said after Biden earlier quipped it might result in a “homicide.”
One Democratic source told CNN that frustration within the party with Manchin and fellow moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is “off the charts” as the party splits 50-50 with Republicans in the chamber and must get all members on board to pass the massive spending bill with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker.
But both of them have repeatedly stated they are not comfortable with that level of spending; Manchin has countered with a $1.5 trillion proposal, but Sanders and the party’s other left-wing extremists are not on board with that lower amount.
As such, though Democrats control the House as well by a slim majority, neither chamber’s leaders have put the measure up for a vote because they don’t have the backing to pass them.
Manchin has called the larger figure “fiscal insanity” and said he doesn’t want to create an “entitlement society.”
“I can’t speak for Mr. Manchin. I’m not a psychologist,” Sanders told CNN in recent days after he was asked about the West Virginian’s criticism of the economic package.
“Democrats say having the two sign off on one package could be enough to win over moderate House Democrats — many of whom are taking their cues from both Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — and the progressive wing of the House, which fell largely in line behind Sanders’ run for president in 2020,” CNN added.
“Far more congressional Democrats align themselves with Sanders’ views than with Manchin’s, so the frustration is building about the West Virginia Democrat — both over his refusal to gut the filibuster in order to raise the national debt ceiling and his reluctance to divulge much about his negotiations over the larger economic package,” the network continued.
For a brief time last week, Manchin appeared to indicate he would support a spending cap somewhat above the $1.5 trillion he proposed, which appeared to aggravate Sanders further.
“So my concern with Mr. Manchin is not so much what his views are — I disagree with them — but it is that it is wrong, is really not playing fair, that one or two people think that they should be able to stop what 48 members of the Democratic caucus want, what the American people want, what the President of the United States wants,” he said, according to CNN.
“So, Sen. Manchin has a right to fight for his point of view, has not only a right to be heard, he has a right to get some compromises. He’s a member of the Senate. But two people do not have the right to sabotage what 48 want, and what the President of the United States wants. That to me is wrong,” he said.
Manchin represents a solidly red state; Sinema’s Arizona is trending purple but most of the state government is run by Republicans.