Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday said he wouldn’t support the bipartisan infrastructure bill if it included measures such as raising the gas tax or a fee on electric vehicles.
The statement demonstrates that Democrats are at risk of losing progressives’ support in a 50-50 Senate even as they court Republicans to produce a bipartisan bill.
“If it is roads and bridges, yeah, of course we need to do that and I support that,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “If it is regressive taxation — you know, raising the gas tax or a fee on electric vehicles, or the privatization of infrastructure, no I wouldn’t support it, but we don’t have the details right now.”
Twenty-one senators, including 11 Republicans, have detailed a bipartisan proposal that costs about $973 billion over five years or $1.2 trillion over eight. The plan would have $579 billion in new spending and would repurpose unspent Covid relief funds, impose a surcharge on electric vehicles, and expand the use of state and local funds for coronavirus relief.
Sanders fired back on measures like the added gas tax and fee on electric vehicles but added that the proposal was “mostly good.”
“What is in the bipartisan bill in terms of spending is, from what I can see, mostly good,” Sanders said. “One of the concerns that I do have about the bipartisan bill is how they are going to pay for their proposals, and they’re not clear yet. I don’t know that they even know yet, but some of the speculation is raising a gas tax, which I don’t support, a fee on electric vehicles, privatization of infrastructure, those are proposals that I would not support.”
Sanders’ pushback comes as Senate Democrats continue to weigh spending as much as $6 trillion via the reconciliation process on their own infrastructure package if the chamber’s bipartisan talks fail — or even if the bipartisan package is approved. The Vermont senator added that key issues such as elder care, climate change and wealth disparities need to be addressed.
“It is time we paid attention to the needs of working people,” Sanders said. “And when we do that, when we deal with climate, when we deal with infrastructure, when we deal with home health care, when we deal with child care, we can create millions of good-paying job, that is what the American people want. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the leaders of the group offering the bipartisan proposal, responded to Sanders’ comments, saying the $6 trillion proposal is a “grab bag of progressive priorities.”
“It’s not about infrastructure. It’s kind of a $6 trillion grab bag of progressive priorities,” Portman said on “Meet the Press.” “Ours is about core infrastructure, and it is paid for.”