Sen. Bernie Sanders lambasted fellow Sen. Joe Manchin on Sunday for sinking the Democratic Party's latest effort to pass renewable energy funding, accusing the West Virginia Democrat of acting on behalf of his corporate and billionaire donors instead of the working class of his home state.
Rejecting the notion that Manchin "abruptly pulled the plug" on the majority party's revived push for a scaled-back reconciliation package ahead of the November midterms, Sanders told "ABC's" Martha Raddatz that there was "nothing new" about the West Virginia senator's move last week, when he reportedly told the Democratic leadership that he wouldn't support new climate spending or taxes on the wealthy.
Senate Democrats now plan to push ahead with an even narrower bill that would extend soon-to-expire Affordable Care Act subsidies and let Medicare negotiate the prices of some prescription drugs directly with pharmaceutical companies.
"If you check the record, six months ago I made it clear that you have people like Manchin, [Sen. Kyrsten] Sinema to a lesser degree, who are intentionally sabotaging the president's agenda, what the American people want, what a majority of us in the Democratic caucus want," Sanders said Sunday.
"The problem was that we continue to talk to Manchin like he was serious. He was not," added Sanders. "This is a guy who is [a] major recipient of fossil fuel money, a guy who has received campaign contributions from 25 Republican billionaires. You think this guy is serious?"
Sanders reacted with open disdain to Manchin's insistence that he's holding up Democrats' plans for renewable energy investments, Medicare expansion, and other priorities over genuine concerns about high inflation, an argument the West Virginia senator has been using for months to justify his obstruction as the window for climate action rapidly closes.
"Same nonsense that Manchin has been talking about for a year," Sanders said. "West Virginia, it's a beautiful state, and I've had the pleasure of being there—great people. It is one of the poorest states in this country. You ask the people of West Virginia whether they want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and eyeglasses."
"Ask the people of West Virginia whether we should demand that the wealthiest people and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes," he continued. "Ask the people of West Virginia whether or not all people should have healthcare as a human right, like in every other country on Earth. That's what they will say."
"In my humble opinion," Sanders added, "Manchin represents the very wealthiest people in this country, not working families in West Virginia or America."
Manchin—chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee—is the top beneficiary of oil and gas money in Congress this election cycle, and he's received campaign donations from a number of billionaires who previously donated to former President Donald Trump, including investor Ken Langone and private equity executive Mark Rowan.
As "Politico" reported last week, new campaign finance disclosures show that "business magnate Bill Gates gave Manchin $2,900, as did former Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and Morris Goldfarb, whose G-III Apparel Group owns brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, DKNY, and Karl Lagerfeld."
"A number of high-powered executives maxed out to Manchin between April and June," the outlet noted, "including banker Warren Stephens, hotel executive Tom Baltimore, Motorola CEO Greg Brown, Home Depot CEO Edward Decker, Yum! Brands CEO David Gibbs, Gillette CEO James Kilt, and Robert Kraft and his son Jonathan."