August 5, 2022
Now that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is on board, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has emerged as the final holdout on her party’s domestic agenda. So far, she’s staying characteristically silent, reports The New York Times.
Sinema—an inscrutable lawmaker who has shown a willingness to buck her party, according to the Times—has replaced Manchin as the most prominent and speculated-upon holdout on his party’s major climate, energy and tax package.
On Tuesday, August 2, he approached her on the Senate floor with a hushed entreaty. The results are still unknown. “She’ll make a decision based on the facts,” Manchin told reporters later, calling it “a good talk.”
While Senator Manchin has embraced the public scrutiny and attention that comes with being a swing vote in the evenly divided Senate, Senator Sinema has remained a tight-lipped enigma. Passage of the Democrats’ major domestic policy initiative, negotiated by Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, now hinges on whether she is willing to support it.
So far, Senator Sinema won’t say—putting her colleagues in a perilous position as they rush to move the package forward as early as this week and toil to unite all 50 members of their caucus behind it. Republicans are expected to unanimously oppose the plan, which includes hundreds of billions of dollars in energy and climate proposals, tax increases, extended health care subsidies and a plan aimed at lowering prescription drug prices—meaning Democrats cannot spare a single vote if all Republicans are present.
Party leaders also will have to maneuver the bill through a series of rapid-fire amendments that could pass if any Democrat joins Republicans in support. With Manchin enthusiastically embarking on a media tour to celebrate the measure, fears of failure were now being fueled by Sinema’s characteristic silence.
A spokesperson for Sinema has said that the senator continues to review the legislation and wait for guidance from top Senate rules officials, who are analyzing whether it meets the strict rules that apply under the budget reconciliation process. Democrats are using the reconciliation process to shield the legislation from a filibuster and speed it through Congress.
Top Democrats on Wednesday were quietly weighing what potential changes to the bill, particularly to its tax provisions, might be needed to win Sinema’s support, as the Arizona senator was preparing her own wish list.
While she voted for the initial $3.5 trillion budget blueprint that allowed Democrats to begin work on the legislation, Sinema has not offered explicit support for many pieces of the current package, most notably much of the tax increases included to pay for it.
Doubt about Sinema’s support has centered on her past opposition to a proposal aimed at limiting the carried interest preferential tax treatment for income earned by venture capitalists and private equity firms. A similar proposal was among the tax changes that Manchin and Schumer included in their deal.
Manchin and other Democrats have said the provision would ensure fairness in the nation’s tax code. But Sinema, who resisted many of the tax rate increases her colleagues had pushed for, has privately signaled she wants the carried interest measure removed.
She also is pushing to add funds for drought resiliency, given that her state has struggled with devastating water shortages, according to officials briefed on the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose sensitive negotiations.
Sinema, like most of her colleagues, was blindsided by news of the deal between Manchin and Schumer and its details. Manchin has said that he intentionally did not confide in or consult other Democrats during final negotiations to salvage the climate and tax proposals because, he told reporters on Monday, “I wasn’t ever sure that we would get to a finale, to get a completed bill.”
It was unclear whether Democrats would be willing to strike the tax break for wealthy executives altogether to win over Sinema. Estimates suggest it would raise about $14 billion, a small portion of the $740 billion plan.
Party leaders expressed guarded optimism that they could pass the package with its key elements intact. “I’m very hopeful we’re all going to be united and pass this bill,” said Schumer, who said he and his staff were in touch with Ms. Sinema about the measure.
Research contact: @nytimes
Editor’s note: According to The New York Times, ” Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, announced on Thursday evening that she would support moving forward with her party’s climate, tax and health care package, clearing the way for a major piece of President Biden’s domestic agenda to move through the Senate in the coming days.”