Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Sunday said that he wouldn’t stand behind an infrastructure bill that boosts the gas tax or issues fees on electric vehicles, demonstrating the latest progressive departure from the bipartisan efforts to strike an infrastructure deal.
“Well, look, as I said, what is in the bipartisan bill in terms of spending is, from what I can see, mostly good. It is roads and bridges, and we need to do that. That is what we are proposing in our legislation but in much greater numbers,” Sanders said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
But the Vermont senator noted that he needs to know the bill’s details before he makes the decision to back the legislation.
“I don't know that anybody could give you an honest answer to that because nobody really knows what is going to be in this bipartisan agreement and how it is going to be paid for,” Sanders said. “So if it is roads and bridges, yeah, of course, we need to do that, and I support that. 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. So we don't have the details right now.”
His comments come as a group of twenty-one senators, including eleven Republicans, have been crafting an infrastructure bill that funds roads, bridges, waterways, broadband, and other physical projects. The plan would cost about $973 billion over five years or $1.2 trillion over eight and includes $570 in new spending. Lawmakers said the bill would be paid for by repurposing unused pandemic relief funds, implementing a surcharge on electric vehicles, and widening the use of state and local money for coronavirus aid.
Although Sanders said he would disagree with the speculated measures in the bill, he 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.”
At the same time, Senate Democrats continue to weigh a sweeping $6 trillion infrastructure package if negotiations between lawmakers from both sides of the aisle hit a brick wall. That would mean Democrats would use the fast-track budget reconciliation process that wouldn’t require a single Republican vote in the upper chamber to pass their plan.
Sanders has signaled his support for drafting a massive infrastructure overhaul that addresses issues like elder care and climate change.
“It's what the American people want,” Sanders said Thursday. “Virtually every proposal I've included in that budget is exactly what the American people want. They want us to create millions of high-paying jobs and to do the other things that are long overdue.”
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.