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Sen. Bernie Sanders appears at a press conference.

Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., conduct a news conference in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, November 3, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

After House Passage, Sanders Vows to Strengthen Build Back Better 'In a Number of Ways'

"The Senate has an opportunity to make this a truly historic piece of legislation. We will listen to the demands of the American people and strengthen the Build Back Better Act."

Jake Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders praised House Democrats on Friday for passing their version of the Build Back Better Act but made clear he intends to push for significant improvements to the $1.75 trillion social spending and climate package before it reaches President Joe Biden's desk.

"The American people overwhelmingly demand that we ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes."

"Now the legislation comes to the Senate, where I hope to see it strengthened in a number of ways," Sanders (I-Vt.), the chair of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, said in a statement. "The Senate has an opportunity to make this a truly historic piece of legislation. We will listen to the demands of the American people and strengthen the Build Back Better Act."

In recent days, the Vermont senator has voiced outrage over a provision of the Build Back Better Act that would deliver a sizeable tax break to largely rich households—and virtually nothing to middle- and low-income families. The proposal, which would raise the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions from $10,000 to $80,000 through 2026, is currently the second most expensive component of Democrats' reconciliation package.

Sanders told reporters earlier this week that he's working on a compromise to limit the provision and ensure the bill does not leave "millionaires better off tax-wise than they were under [former President Donald] Trump."

After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) promised to "fight" to keep the SALT proposal intact, Sanders told CNN's Manu Raju on Thursday that the plan is both "bad politics" and "bad policy."

"The American people overwhelmingly demand that we ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes," the Vermont senator said in his statement Friday. "That's what we must do."

As grassroots groups push the upper chamber to take up and approve the Build Back Better Act without delay, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) said earlier this week that he hopes to pass the reconciliation bill before Christmas.

Sanders also vowed to continue pushing for more substantial climate action, bolder drug price reforms, and Medicare expansion. Last month, amid opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and other corporate Democrats, the Biden White House dropped its push to add dental and vision benefits to Medicare.

In its current form, the Build Back Better Act would just add hearing services to Medicare starting in 2023. The bill also includes drug price reforms that are substantially weaker than Democrats' earlier proposals, which drew pushback from party members bankrolled by the pharmaceutical industry.

"The American people overwhelmingly demand that we take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry and lower the cost of prescription drugs. That's what we must do," Sanders said Friday. "The American people overwhelmingly demand that we expand Medicare to cover dental, eyeglasses, and hearing aids. That's what we must do."

"The American people understand that we must act now to combat the existential threat of climate change and transform our energy system away from fossil fuels," he continued. "That's what we must do."

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