Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Sunday that Democrats must work quickly on a larger infrastructure package that addresses climate change and other related issues.
“I think we get boggled down in numbers, which is important, but we have to look at what the needs of the American people are right now,” Sanders, a Vermont independent senator who caucuses with Democrats and chairs the Senate Budget Committee, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
Sanders’ remarks come as Democrats seek to negotiate President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure proposal on a bipartisan and budget reconciliation track.
Sanders said the President provided a “serious and comprehensive blueprint” when asked if he had Biden’s permission to push a separate $6 trillion reconciliation plan.
Some moderate Democrats, such as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, are concerned about Sanders’ plan’s high price tag, and have stated that they will not support it.
According to CNN, aides familiar with the plans say that even if Democrats and Republicans can agree on a modest, bipartisan infrastructure package, Democrats will still need to find a way to reconcile in order to pass more sweeping reforms and tax changes that are a centerpiece of Biden’s legislative agenda.
When asked if he would be willing to lower the price, Sanders told Bash that he would meet with Democratic lawmakers to discuss their concerns.
“Are there differences about this proposal, that proposal, the amount of money? Yeah, there are. And that’s something we’re going to have to work together to hammer out. I intend to do that,” he said.
Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of 58 moderate House members proposed a $1.25 trillion infrastructure package. The bill proposes $761.8 billion in new infrastructure spending over the next eight years, but Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate are still negotiating how to fund it.
In a joint interview on Sunday, co-chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Democrat Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, expressed optimism for the bipartisan infrastructure proposal while acknowledging that some members of Congress will oppose it.
“This is about physical infrastructure and something that’s urgent that needs to get done and we’ve got bipartisan support for it. … I believe we can get this done,” Gottheimer told Bash. “You’re always going to have some that disagree, but this is what this is about, just continuing to work at it.”
Fitzpatrick told Bash that negotiators should consider all options for paying for the bill, including raising the gas tax, which the White House has opposed.
“Should everything be on the table? Of course it should be, because that’s part of compromise,” Fitzpatrick said. “Nobody will be totally in love with the plan but everybody will be okay with it.”
Separately on Sunday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina urged Biden to take the lead on the infrastructure package.
“I think the difference between this negotiation and the earlier negotiation is we’re willing to add more money to infrastructure in this package, and I am hopeful that if the White House and Joe Biden stay involved we can get there,” Graham told “Fox News Sunday.” “I would just say this. President Biden if you want an infrastructure bill of a trillion dollars, it is there for the taking. You just need to get involved and lead.”