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Tipsheet

Senate Dems Feeling 'Angst and Fear' Awaiting Sinema's Decision on Social Spending Bill

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

At the end of another rollercoaster week on Capitol Hill, the supposed victory achieved by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) in reaching a deal to move a revived version of the Build Back Better social spending bill might have been a case of premature celebration after all. 

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That's because Schumer seems to have forgotten to include Arizona Democrat Senator Kyrsten Sinema who was reportedly "blindsided" by some of the provisions in the final Schumer-Manchin deal after she wasn't even a part of the negotiations — despite her reservations about ramping up spending amid the country's economic woes. 

New reporting on Saturday from Axios highlights the fact that Sinema may have some mandatory edits to the $740 billion legislation if she is going to support the measure that the White House and other Democrats have been celebrating in a bit of pre-hatch chicken counting. 

As Axios noted, Sinema "had a message for her Democratic colleagues before she flew home to Arizona for the weekend: She's preserving her options." And options she has, including dealing another blow to the bill’s passage — which is something frequently bumbling Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer apparently didn't bother to take into account. As a result, Sinema left town saying “no comment” to questions about the bill leaving Democrats feeling "something between angst and fear" as they await her decision. 

That's because any sort of Sinema-appeasing "modification to the Democrat's climate and deficit reduction package — like knocking out the $14 billion provision on carried interest — could cause the fragile deal to collapse." And that would be another failure of the Democrat-controlled Senate to get a Democrat-led bill through the upper chamber with roughly four months before the midterms in which the Dems desperately need some success to sway voters.

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So despite the Schumer-Manchin deal that apparently took a key Democrat's support for granted, Sinema is sending up warning flares that the legislation is anything but a done deal. Here's how Axios outlined the issues in getting the "Build Back Better Jr." bill across the finish line:

Sinema has given no assurances to colleagues that she’ll vote along party lines in the so-called “vote-a-rama” for the $740 billion bill next week, according to people familiar with the matter...

Not only is Sinema indicating that she's open to letting Republicans modify the bill, she has given no guarantees she’ll support a final “wrap-around” amendment, which would restore the original Schumer-Manchin deal...

Schumer made a calculated decision to negotiate a package with Manchin in secrecy. He assumed that all of his other members, including Sinema, would fall into line and support the deal.

Schumer apparently forgot what can happen when you assume.

Sinema, who didn't attend the Senate Dem caucus meeting this week, was apparently spotted lugging the more than 700-page bill aboard her flight home to Arizona. She doesn't talk to Schumer that much, and theirs is a frosty relationship that wasn't helped when Schumer refused to endorse Sinema's 2024 reelection bid earlier this year. Next week, or potentially sooner if Sinema pulls a few all-nighters to get through the behemoth legislation over the weekend, Sinema will either hand Biden a victory or dash his legislative agenda once more upon the rocks of the U.S. Senate.

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