Bernie Sanders Questions 'Courage' of Congress as Spending Bill is Whittled Down

Senator Bernie Sanders criticized the pharmaceutical industry and Congress on Tuesday for not regulating the price of prescription drug costs as additional Medicare and Medicaid benefits are at risk of being cut from President Joe Biden's Build Back Better spending bill.

The Vermont Independent's comments come as progressive and moderate members of the Democrat Party continue negotiations over Biden's proposal. Sanders told reporters earlier in the day that the expansions to dental and hearing coverage plus reforming the cost of prescriptions are requirements of the final package and he echoed the remarks to Twitch streamers in the evening.

"Here we are in a very critical moment in American history, and the issue that we face is whether the government of the United States of America finally has the courage to stand up to powerful special interests and do what the American people want," Sanders said. "And I certainly hope that will be the case."

The senator said that the majority of Americans support expanding Medicare benefits and allowing the federal government to negotiate lower prices for name-brand prescription drugs covered by the insurance.

However, the proposal may be cut from the social spending bill along with a number of other Medicare benefits after Senator Joe Manchin said he'd support the bill if it gets whittled down to $1.5 trillion. He also expressed concern over the Medicare expansion because the program is facing insolvency in 2026, he said.

Bernie Sanders Lawmakers Continue Work On Capitol
Senator Bernie Sanders criticized the pharmaceutical industry and Congress on Tuesday for not regulating the price of prescription drug costs as additional Medicare and Medicaid benefits are at risk of being cut from President Joe Biden's social spending bill. Pictured: Sanders (I-VT) speaks with reporters as he leaves the U.S. Capitol following a vote on October 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sanders instead argued there is "no rational reason other than greed" for pharmaceutical companies to charge Americans more money for the same prescription. He continued that the business model of the industry has been fraud and that Congress has not been the one to regulate Medicare prices.

Sanders said those days "must come to an end" and they will when members of Congress stand up to prescription drug companies. He added that when Medicare can negotiate prescription drug prices, the government can save over $500 billion.

"Now I understand that the pharmaceutical industry owns the Republican Party, I got that. And I understand that there will not be one Republican in the entire Senate or the House who has the courage to stand up for his or her constituents and lower the cost of prescription drugs, that's pathetic but it's true," Sanders said in reference to the lack of GOP support for the social spending bill. "Well in my view, there should not be any Democrat who is in that position. There should be no Democrats, zero, who are not prepared to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry."

The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill. It’s what the American people want. It’s not coming out.

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 24, 2021

He concluded that because the majority of voters want to expand Medicare benefits, Congress must deliver it and pass the Build Back Better plan.

Democrats have until October 31 to pass the spending bill but have remained at odds over what to include and what to remove.

Newsweek reached out to the Congressional Progressive Caucus for comment.