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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 agreed, with Montana Sen. Joe Tester saying, “Yes,” when asked whether he’s concerned about the pair’s disagreements.
“I just think it’s a matter of getting them in the same room,” he said.
A Democratic source said that the party’s frustration with Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is “off the charts” as the two stonewall their colleagues’ plans.
Manchin and Sinema are the only two Democratic senators not on board with the proposed $3.5 trillion spending bill, which they have both said is an irresponsibly large sum. In the evenly divided Senate, Democrats can’t afford to lose the two centrist senators’ votes.
Manchin and Sanders represent the opposite sides within the party, with Sanders being a socialist looking to expand social programs massively and Manchin a centrist opposed to both high spending and an “entitlement society .” The West Virginia Democrat has set a ceiling of $1.5 trillion, calling the $3.5 trillion figure “fiscal insanity .”
The House and the Senate have declined to put the legislation on the agenda despite both chambers being under Democratic control, with leadership saying the party lacks the votes for the measure to pass.