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Bernie Sanders Has ‘No Problem With Going to West Virginia’ to Pressure Joe Manchin

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Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said he would have “no problem” with traveling to West Virginia to pressure Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) over raising the minimum wage to $15 and other policies that the latter opposes but most of the Democratic caucus supports.

The Senate is evenly split 50-50 between Republicans and the Democratic caucus of which Sanders is a part. But the Democratic caucus has a narrow majority because Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote.

Speaking on MSNBC’s The Mehdi Hasan Show, the independent Vermont senator and Senate Budget Committee chairman was asked if he should exert his influence more aggressively to push progressive legislation now that the Democrats control Congress.

In response, Sanders said he is not the president, but that he is pleased with the passage of the $1.9 trillion relief package under President Joe Biden, describing it as the “most significant piece of legislation for working-class people” in modern U.S. history.

“And we’re moving forward in a similar direction. We can’t get everything we want. That’s simply the reality, any one person can say no,” Sanders said.

“But right now, I think we are moving forward. We’re gonna push it as hard as we possibly can, and I’m proud of the direction in which we are moving.”

Hasan then asked Sanders whether Biden should put pressure on West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin—considered the most conservative Democrat in the Senate—to back progressive policies in line with other Democrats.

Most Democrats want to double the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15. But Manchin was one of seven Democrats who voted against the $15 wage hike, calling instead for an increase up to $11 per hour.

“I think that every Republican wants to raise the minimum wage. Everyone’s just not in sync with Bernie Sanders at $15,” Manchin told CNN in March.

Manchin has also knocked back other proposals from Biden such as scrapping the filibuster and raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent.

The Democrat also does not support “Medicare for All,” Sanders’ signature presidential campaign issue, and previously said he would not support him over Donald Trump if the progressive had won the Democratic presidential nomination.

During his run for the presidency, Sanders had pledged to campaign in West Virginia and, as Hasan put it, “rally working people there against Senator Manchin” in his own state.

Hasan asked Sanders if he thought Biden should head to West Virginia to pressure Manchin to back a progressive agenda.

Sanders replied that “a lot of work has been done internally in terms of bringing the Democratic caucus together,” noting how they passed the stimulus legislation which would “cut childhood poverty in half.”

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On pressuring Manchin, Sanders added: “I have no problem with going to West Virginia, and I think we need a grassroots movement that makes it clear to Joe Manchin and everybody else in the United States Senate, including Republicans, that the progressive agenda is what the American people want.

“They want to raise that minimum wage to $15 an hour. They believe that health care is a human right, should be universal. They demand that the rich start paying their fair share of taxes.

“These are not my arguments, these are what the American people want right now, and our job is to rally the American people in every state in this country to make sure that the government starts working for the working class in this country, not just the one percent.”

Manchin has been contacted for comment.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill examining wages at large profitable corporations February 25, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Sanders has said he would have “no problem” in traveling to West Virginia to confront Senator Joe Manchin about his opposition to raising the minimum wage to $15.
Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images

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