Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) had a message for her fellow Democrats before heading home to Arizona for the weekend: She’s preserving her options.
Why is this important: Sinema has influence and she knows it. Any potential changes to the Democratic climate and deficit reduction agenda — such as removing the $14 billion provision on deferred interest — could cause the fragile deal to collapse.
- Her posture is causing something between angst and fear in the Democratic caucus as senators wait for her to deliver a verdict on the secret deal announced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin last Thursday. .
Driving the news: Sinema has given no assurances to her colleagues that she will vote along party lines in the so-called “vote-a-rama” for the $740 billion bill next week, according to people close to the party. case.
- The vote-a-rama process allows legislators to propose an unlimited number of amendments, as long as they are deemed relevant by the Senate parliamentarian. Senators – and reporters – expect a late night.
- Republicans furious that Democrats have a chance to send $280 billion package to China and a massive climate and health care bill to President Biden, will use the vote-a-rama to force vulnerable Democrats to take politically tough votes.
- They will also try to kill the reconciliation package with poison pills – amendments that prevent Schumer from finding 50 votes for the final passage.
The plot: Not only has Sinema indicated she’s willing to let Republicans amend the bill, but she has given no guarantees that she will support a “comprehensive” final amendment, which would reinstate the original Schumer-Manchin agreement.
The big picture: Schumer made a calculated decision to negotiate a package with Manchin in secret. He assumed that all of his other members, including Sinema, would line up and support the deal.
- Now his caucus is digesting the details, with Sinema taking a printout of the 725-page bill to Arizona on Friday for dense in-flight reading.
- Schumer will find out this week if his bet to keep Sinema in the dark will pay off.
What we are looking at: While Sinema backed the 15% minimum book tax in December, which would raise more than $300 billion, Schumer never bothered to check whether his stance had changed, given the darkening economic outlook.
- Schumer and Manchin also inserted language about taxing deferred interest as regular income, which would bring in about $14 billion, knowing full well that Sinema never agreed to it. This move blinded Sinema.
The plot: While Schumer and Manchin have a well-documented and tumultuous relationship — replete with private, fence-repairing Italian dinners — Schumer and Sinema don’t regularly engage.
Rollback: The Schumer-Sinema relationship took a hit in February when Schumer refused to endorse Sinema for re-election in 2024 at the direct request of CNN.
- She did not attend her party’s caucus meeting on Thursday.
Between the lines: Sinema and Manchin have always agreed that President Biden’s original $3.5 billion Build Back Better plan needed to be scaled back.
- They are also on the same wavelength on the need to act on climate change.
- While Manchin has been primarily concerned with inflation, his guiding principles have always been economic growth and the creation of new jobs in Arizona.
The bottom line: Sinema is not very happy with the way Schumer imposed this package on her. It 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 accountable for killing the best-fired Democrats on a climate bill in years.
Editor’s Note: This release corrects the caucus meeting date.