Oct 24, 2021 2 mins, 26 secs

When making the case for progressive policy, the veteran leftwing senator Bernie Sanders often cites public opinion.

Now he is working closely with Democrats in Congress and at the White House to reach a deal even smaller in scope that will satisfy the objections of the party’s centrists without sacrificing progressive priorities.

But every concession made to accommodate them moves the bill further and further from Sanders’ initial vision, leaving progressives deeply worried that Democrats will squander what they view as their best chance in decades to transform the American economy and confront the climate crisis.

The California congressman Ro Khanna, who was among a group of progressives summoned to the White House for an Oval Office meeting this week, was optimistic that Democrats were close to a deal that progressives could accept, if not celebrate.

“This bill represents Bernie Sanders’ socialist dream,” the Republican senator John Barrasso said during a press conference, raising a 2,000-page draft of the Democrats’ spending package.

To pass, the bill will require the support of every Democrat in the Senate, a caucus that ranges the ideological spectrum from the democratic socialist Sanders to the conservative centrist Manchin.

Whereas Sanders believes the bill has the potential to be “one of the most important pieces of legislation since the New Deal”, Manchin has warned that the scale of it risks “changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality”.

When they ran into each other outside the Capitol last week, Manchin threw his arm around Sanders and asked reporters to take a picture of them.

The senator’s healthcare push put him at odds with House leadership, who would prefer to permanently strengthen the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, or to expand Medicaid services to poor adults in mostly Republican-led states that refused to do so under the healthcare law.

As part of negotiations, Sanders has worked closely with the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, especially the chairwoman, Pramila Jayapal, the Washington congresswoman who has emerged as a leader in negotiations over the president’s agenda.

In a showdown last month, House progressives threatened to derail a vote on a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill championed by centrists as a way to maintain leverage over the much larger spending bill.

The Senate had already passed the public works bill, with the support of all 50 Democrats and 19 Republicans, so it fell to House progressives to, in their parlance, “hold the line”.

Sanders offered his vocal support for the blockade, which Khanna, a deputy whip of the progressive caucus, said was “critical” to keeping progressives unified.

On the day of the promised vote, Biden ventured to Capitol Hill to meet with the bitterly divided House Democrats.

The effect has been a show of force by progressives that she believes will motivate voters and candidates next year

On Wednesday night, Sanders was joined by a panel of progressives to help lay out the proposals in the Democrats’ bill

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