Sen. Joe Manchin says Sen. Bernie Sanders has hit too close to home in his push for him to support President Joe Biden's economic package after the Vermont independent called him out in an opinion piece published in a West Virginia newspaper.
"This isn't the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state," Manchin said while responding to the opinion piece Sanders, I-Vt., published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail Friday, reports Politico.
Sanders is a major proponent of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, while Manchin has been fighting against its passage unless a lower price tag is attached. But the West Virginia Democrat signaled that his Vermont colleague has gone too far by the backyard attack.
"Congress should proceed with caution on any additional spending and I will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs," Manchin said in a statement after the opinion piece was published Friday. "No op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist is going to change that."
Manchin has often responded to Sanders' media campaign for the spending bill, reports Politico, but Sanders' piece in the West Virginia newspaper escalates the rhetoric even more.
In it, Sanders outlines how Medicare expansions and drug price reforms can help West Virginia and makes a case for climate action and paid leave expansion, and targets Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who also opposes the $3.5 trillion price for the bill.
"Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation," said Sanders. "Yet, the political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote ‘yes.’ We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin," Sanders wrote.
Manchin responded that "Millions of jobs are open, supply chains are strained and unavoidable inflation taxes are draining workers’ hard-earned wages as the price of gasoline and groceries continues to climb. Senator Sanders’ answer is to throw more money on an already overheated economy while 52 other Senators have grave concerns about this approach."
According to Sanders' office, a draft was run past Manchin's office after the opinion piece was sent to the Charleston newspaper. Even though both senators generally are diplomatic with their disagreements, they held rivaling press conferences last week and Sanders continued to lean on Manchin and Sinema after with reporters.
Manchin says he supports spending $1.5 trillion on the bill, but Sanders, who initially wanted $6 trillion, already considers the $3.5 figure as a compromise.
Sanders and Manchin, meanwhile, have already been in opposition to each other in the past, including when the Vermont senator defeated Manchin-backed Hillary Clinton in the state's 2016 primary. The next year, Sanders' wife Jane campaigned with Manchin's primary opponent for the 2018 reelection race.
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