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Tipsheet

How Sinema Responded to Senate Dems' Tax Hike Plan

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) called a last-minute audible and struck a deal with Chuck Schumer on a new spending bill. The legislation's core will raise taxes as the nation braces for an economic recession. It's a compromise bill. It's shaky. Manchin could back out if the energy and climate change provisions are too insane (via Associated Press):

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In a startling turnabout, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin announced Wednesday they had reached an expansive agreement that had eluded them for months on health care, energy and climate issues, taxes on higher earners and corporations and federal debt reduction.

The two Democrats said the Senate would vote on the wide-ranging measure next week, setting up President Joe Biden and Democrats for an unexpected victory in the runup to November congressional elections in which their control of Congress is in peril. A House vote would come afterward, perhaps later in August. Unanimous Republican opposition in both chambers seems certain.

Just hours earlier, the expectation was that Schumer, D-N.Y., and Manchin, D-W.Va., were at loggerheads and headed toward far narrower package that Manchin was insisting be limited to curbing pharmaceutical prices and extending federal health care subsidies. Earlier Wednesday, numerous Democratic senators had said they were all but resigned to the more modest legislation.

That's possible given the make-up of today's Democratic Party. I feel like Manchin has just as many enemies as friends. Thus far, he's been able to balance the two to ensure his political survival. He is a very likable senator with the gift of being able to thrive in retail politics. Even Republicans back home like him. 

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Yet, I forgot about Ms. Sinema. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is the other wild card whenever Democrats want to do something massive. Frequently, Manchin and Sinema are the two who prevent the Democrats from passing radical bills. She's also a woman who will kowtow to no one, especially Schumer. She will go on her way; it's best for one just to stand clear. Sinema was not part of the talks between Schumer and Manchin. She's a big question mark because, as of now, this bill is not home-free. If Sinema opposes it, it's dead in the water. And there are more than a few red flags (via Axios):

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has spent the summer out of the spotlight. That's now going to change, Axios' Alayna Treene and Hans Nichols report.

Why it matters: Solving the Democrats' tax and spending puzzle in the Senate — where President Biden's agenda has stalled for over a year — has always involved two key pieces: Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

  • But as they hammered out the details of their $740 billion reconciliation package — which they rechristened the "Inflation Reduction Act of 2022" — Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer didn't include Sinema in their secret talks.
  • That decision may not be fatal to winning her support. But much of Washington is flying blind on whether she'll back spending $369 billion on climate and another $64 billion on health care by raising the corporate minimum tax rate to 15%.

"We do not have a comment, as she will need to review the text," a Sinema spokesperson said in the hours after news broke of Manchin's stunning reversal.

[...]

Between the lines: Sinema was on record last December supporting the 15% corporate tax rate, which will raise an estimated $313 billion to fund the Democrats' climate priorities.

  • But that was before inflation took off and constant chatter about a potential recession subsumed Washington.
  • Since Manchin initially killed Biden's Build Back Better agenda in December, corporate America — which is close to Sinema — didn't see a need to take her temperature on taxes.
  • And throughout the spring, Sinema shared and encouraged the view that Build Back Better — and any corporate tax increases — was dead.
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Is Manchin serious about this bill? Or did he go about this route knowing things could collapse, creating an escape hatch for himself? This last push is genuinely the last bite of the apple for Democrats in getting any significant spending legislation passed before the midterms. After this, Democrats must look at how bad the butcher's bill will be in November and allocate as much time and attention to saving those who can be amid the Biden recession. 

Will Sinema be a savior or the grim reaper?  

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