Sen. Kyrsten Sinema May Yet Torpedo Biden's Agenda

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The agreement on a climate and tax passage between Senators Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer was hailed as a tremendous victory for Joe Biden.

The only problem is that Biden hasn’t won anything yet. In addition to Manchin’s vote, Schumer absolutely has to get Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema on board the Inflation Reduction Act before it will pass the Senate and go on to the House.

In the past, Sinema has opposed one of the major revenue raisers in the tax reform package — language on taxing carried interest as regular income, which would raise approximately $14 billion. And Schumer didn’t even bother to check with Sinema on whether her position in support of the 15% minimum tax on corporations had changed since last December.

In short, Schumer kept Sinema in the dark during his negotiations with Manchin. The Schumer-Sinema relationship was already rocky and Schumer may have overplayed his hand with Manchin.


The Schumer-Sinema relationship took a big blow back in February when Schumer declined to endorse Sinema for her 2024 re-election when directly asked by CNN.

She didn’t attend her party’s caucus meeting on Thursday.

Between the lines: Sinema and Manchin always agreed that President Biden’s initial $3.5 billion Build Back Better plan needed to be trimmed down.

They are also on the same page on the need to act on climate change.
If Manchin has been primarily concerned with inflation, her guiding principles have always been economic growth and new jobs in Arizona.

The bottom line: Sinema isn’t terribly pleased with how Schumer has foisted this package upon her. She reserves the right to modify it.

But she also knows that a progressive challenger, like Rep. Rueben Gallego, is all but guaranteed in 2024 if she’s held responsible for killing the Democrats best shot at a climate bill in years.

Schumer almost certainly believes he’ll be able to bully Sinema into supporting the bill. But what Sinema wants in return may be more than Schumer can pay.

And there are rumblings on the far left as well. Rep. Maxine Waters is livid that no money for housing was included in the bill.

“The recent information about what has been made available in this deal…is shameful, I’m embarrassed by it. I’m angered by it,” said Waters during a press call. “The way I’m feeling right now, I’m not committed to voting for [the bill]. I have a lot I have to say to leadership.”

Waters may just be posturing. But it’s an indication to Schumer that he has a lot of work to do to bring this bill past the finish line.

But whither Kyrsten?

The Hill:

The mystery over how Sinema will vote deepened Thursday when she didn’t attend a special Senate Democratic Caucus meeting where Schumer explained the deal.

A Democratic senator who attended the session noted that it isn’t unusual for Sinema to miss caucus meetings.

A spokeswoman for Sinema said she’s reviewing the text and will need to see what comes out of the parliamentarian process.

The Senate parliamentarian has thrown a monkey wrench into Democratic plans to pass legislation using the reconciliation process before. The language in the bill must meet exacting standards to be included, and the parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, tossed out language in the 2021 pandemic relief bill that would have raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour.  And in December of that year, she nixed immigration reform that had been attached to another pandemic relief bill.

The rejected provisions ran afoul of the Byrd rule, which has strict criteria that have to be met before being included in a reconciliation bill.

But Democrats believe that most of the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act will pass muster with the parliamentarian. All that remains is to get Sen. Sinema to sign off on the bill.

And that’s not a done deal by any means.


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