Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is opposing any tax increases for individuals and large corporations to pay for President Joe Biden’s reconciliation bill that’s being negotiated between the White House and Capitol Hill.
Insider reported Thursday on the Arizona Democrat’s demands, citing two Senate Democratis aides familiar with the matter.
Without a tax hike, the package will be deprived of more than $700 billion in revenue – and will rob Biden of the talking point that the more than a trillion dollars worth of social services spending and climate change provisions will be paid for.
Moderate Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is in Europe this week fundraising as President Joe Biden’s multi-trillion reconciliation bill remains in limbo
Sinema has been tight-lipped about her demands, though Reuters reported Thursday that she signaled she will not vote for the reconciliation bill until the House passes the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan.
Sinema told fellow Democrats as much this week in a meeting with House members, sources with knowledge told Reuters.
Meanwhile, progressives in the House have said they won’t vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate moves on the larger package.
With a split 50-50 Senate, Democrats can’t get anything done in the upper chamber without Manchin and Sinema on board. But with a narrow majority in the House, they can only afford to lose three votes.
In a virtual meeting, both Sinema and Manchin said they would not abide by any deadlines set by leadership to force votes on the package. Both have balked at the larger social spending plan’s current price tag of $3.5 trillion.
As Biden’s approval rating plummets and midterm elections loom in the horizon, the White House is reportedly growing frustrated and looking to raise pressure for talks to wrap up.
Meanwhile, Sinema jetted off to Europe this week fundraising as President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda remains in limbo.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Sinema had participated in fundraising for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, with one source saying an event had occurred in Paris.
The chairman of the DSCC, Sen. Gary Peters, is also in Europe this week, and held a ticketed fundraiser in London where American expats could give as much as $36,500, however Sinema’s name was not on the invitation.
Her office refused to tell The Times how long she would be abroad, what countries she was visiting and if she was doing additional fundraising for her own campaign.
However, the newspaper found out that her political staff had reached out to people to set up meetings in Paris and London.
Her travels come after she reportedly told the White House what she wants to see in the reconciliation bill – and Biden’s team isn’t happy about it.
‘I have already told the White House what I am willing to do and what I’m not willing to do. I’m not mysterious. It’s not that I can’t make up my mind. I’m communicating it to them in detail. They just don’t like that they’re hearing,’ she recently told a Senate Democratic colleague, who then told Politico’s Playbook about the conversation.
Now with a debt ceiling crisis waved off until early December, the White House and Congress’ full attention can return to crafting what’s in the reconciliation bill, which Biden has conceded will no longer have a pricetag of $3.5 trillion.
West Virginia moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (left) is a also negotiating with President Joe Biden (right) over what should be in the reconciliation package, though he’s been more forthcoming about his demands
After Playbook’s report came out, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about its accuracy and whether she could share where Sinema stood.
Psaki only confirmed that the White House had been in touch.
‘We have – of course. We’ve been in consistent contact with Senator Sinema from a high level. Of course, as you know, the president has spoken with her and met with her a number of times. She’s been in touch with senior members of our White House team. And we’re working with her, we’re working with Senator Manchin, we’re working with a range of Democrats to move this legislation forward,’ Psaki said.
Sinema and Manchin remain the moderate hold-outs, but their priorities for what’s in the bill aren’t aligned.
Sinema’s comment to her colleague represents her beating back the perception that she’s playing coy about what she supports.
The Saturday Night Live version of her played up this narrative, with Cecily Strong’s character saying: ‘What do I want from this bill? I’ll never tell, because I didn’t come to Congress to make friends. So far, mission accomplished.’
But there’s truth in that, according to the colleague, who says Sinema won’t tell fellow lawmakers what she wants.
‘I’m not going to share with you or with Schumer or with Pelosi,’ Sinema told her Democratic colleague, according to Playbook.
‘Manchin and Sinema want very different things, both in terms of revenue and programs,’ a souce close to Biden told Playbook. ‘If you just look at their currently presented red lines you wouldn’t have enough left to get this past progressives in the House and Senate. It wouldn’t raise enough money and it wouldn’t do enough big programs.’
Democratic sources said the biggest obstacle Sinema has created is over prescription drug pricing reform.
The boldest version of the plan allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices and brings in $800 billion from the pharmaceutical industry.
However, Democratic sources told Playbook that the White House would be lucky if they can convince Sinema to support a program that brings in $200 billion from the industry.
At that dollar amount, the expansion of Medicare that Sen. Bernie Sanders has called for, and the expansion of the Affordable Care Act that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports, wouldn’t be paid for, Playbook noted.
At the same time, Manchin will support a drug pricing plan, but he wants to see a tax on prescription opioids – which is not supported by Sinema’s allies at PhRMA.
On climate, Manchin is opposed to pricing carbon pollution, while Sinema favors it.
Manchin also refuses to support subsidies for the West Virginia coal workers who will lose their incomes as the U.S. transitions to more green energy sources.
Sources told Politico Manchin ‘rejected it out of hand,’ calling it ‘welfare.’
‘So, like where the hell is the overlap?’ the source close to Biden told Playbook, describing the cap as ‘maddening.’ ‘How do you land that?’
Last week, video of Green New Deal Network Chief of Staff Kunoor Ojha following Sinema through the Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, asking her why she wouldn’t support the Build Back Better Act as the representative tried to field a phone conversation
Earlier last week, a group of immigration activists with the group LUCHA Arizona followed Sinema into the bathroom at Arizona State University, where she teachers, demanding again that she support a ‘pathway to citizenship’