'So we drop what's most popular?' Bernie Sanders challenges Democrats as Build Back Better bill faces cuts

'So we drop what's most popular?' Bernie Sanders challenges Democrats as Build Back Better bill faces cuts
Senate Democrats, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont reportedly asked his Democratic colleagues a pointed question on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday: "So we drop what's most popular?"

Sanders was referring to a proposal to add dental and vision benefits to Medicare coverage, a plan that U.S. voters identified as their top priority for Democrats' emerging reconciliation package, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll released Tuesday.

Last week, however, the Biden administration released an updated reconciliation framework that excluded dental and vision for Medicare recipients as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), dental industry groups, and large insurers objected to and lobbied against the proposed expansion. The new Build Back Better framework would still add hearing benefits to Medicare.

Sanders, the leading champion of Medicare expansion in Congress, vocally criticized the administration's decision to drop the dental and vision coverage and indicated that he would continue working to include the benefits in the final reconciliation package.

On Tuesday, HuffPost's Igor Bobic tweeted that he saw Sanders showing Senate Democrats the Morning Consult/Politico survey, which found that 41% of U.S. voters see adding dental and vision to Medicare as their number one hope for the Build Back Better Act.

In a pair of tweets Tuesday, Sanders once again highlighted the Morning Consult/Politico survey and wrote, "Maybe—just maybe—Congress should respond to the demands of the American people and finally expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing."

"When 41% of the American people tell us that their top priority is for us to expand Medicare to include dental and vision benefits—one of the most popular items in the Build Back Better agenda—what should we do?" Sanders continued. "We should listen to the people. Let's get this done."

The third most popular proposal from the original Build Back Better package, according to the new poll, is allowing Medicare to directly negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

That plan was also absent from the Biden administration's new framework, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday that Democrats reached a deal to include a weaker version after Sanders, grassroots activists, and lawmakers in vulnerable congressional districts fought to rescue at least portions of the proposal.

"Think about this: the exact same medications, manufactured by the same companies, in the same factories are all available in Canada, Europe, Australia, and Japan for a fraction of the price that the American people pay," Sanders said over the weekend. "And why? Because of Big Pharma's greed. Time to end it."

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