I perked up this afternoon when I saw this tweet from liberal Jonathan Chait:
The 2 plans Democrats are floating now to deal with Sinema sound like hail-mary throws. I think this bill is in much more trouble than people realize. https://t.co/ewBHiFeTeJ
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) October 21, 2021
Then I saw the news about Joe Manchin countering Bernie Sanders’s demand for a $3.5 trillion with a big fat zero. Maybe we’d be spared the inflation apocalypse after all. It looked like reconciliation was falling apart.
But now, suddenly, it seems like it might be coming together:
🚨Source familiar with Sen. Sinema’s thinking tells me she has agreed to tax revenue provisions that would “fully pay” for budget reconciliation pkg within the $ range currently on the table. Confirming scoop first reported by Politico. pic.twitter.com/fz79zThoi3
— Hillary Vaughn (@hillary__vaughn) October 21, 2021
Sinema’s been even more of a hard-ass in negotiating than Manchin has. She refuses to name her terms publicly despite endless progressive screeching about it and reportedly told centrist House Dems last week that she won’t vote for a reconciliation bill unless the House goes first by passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill. It’s illogical that a former Green Party member from purple Arizona would be more of a threat to tank Joe Biden’s agenda than a senator from deep-red West Virginia is, but here we are. In fact, Punchbowl News reported earlier that Dems are so desperate to solve their Sinema problem and so exasperated at formulating a plan that appeals to her that they might give in to Manchin’s demands and then put a bill shaped by him on the floor, daring Sinema to be the 51st vote for the GOP in tanking it.
But now, somehow, it looks like they’ve ironed out some key differences with her. What happened?
Sinema met today with House Dem Richard Neal, the head of the Ways and Means Committee, to discuss her opposition to hiking taxes on the upper class and on corporations. His impression wasn’t that she’s trying to tank the bill. Rather the opposite:
Neal said that Sinema made clear she supports renewable energy provisions, an extension of the child tax credit, and paid leave policies — “and that’s the way she ranked them.” Neal indicated that Sinema didn’t say if she supports 12 weeks of paid leave.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 21, 2021
Neal added: "I still think there's a long ways to go, but the conversation was really good." They also talked about international taxation as well.
But Neal said Sinema wants the bill to ultimately pass. "She said that to me. She said ‘I agree with you. This has got to pass.’
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) October 21, 2021
“This has got to pass.” And then, a few hours later, she compromised on taxes.
It’s gonna pass after all. Note to self: Start stockpiling food now.
Maybe Sinema looked at the calendar, looked at the publicity she’s gotten from the left lately, and decided she’d better try to win the game for her team in the ninth inning after all. As we creep closer to Election Day in Virginia, with Dems frantic to pass something significant before Terry McAuliffe has to face voters, the pressure on Sinema from progressives has grown immense. This morning news broke that five military veterans who’d been advising her resigned in protest over her opposition to ending the filibuster and her refusal to make a deal on reconciliation. “You have become one of the principal obstacles to progress, answering to big donors rather than your own people,” they wrote to her, resorting to a lame and outdated line of attack in 2021. The real money in political fundraising in the Internet age isn’t with corporations and big donors, it’s with energized grassroots donors who’ll plow small contributions into your coffers regularly.
Ask Marjorie Taylor Greene or AOC. If Sinema was looking to make bank, she would have been better off going full metal progressive on the bill and leveraging Bernie’s donor army. She’s doing what she’s doing because she believes it’s the right and responsible thing to do.
At least, she was. Maybe as the threats to primary her have grown more serious, she calculated that she’d pushed the left as far as she could push them without losing her seat:
“I think the sentiment that I’m hearing out there, voters in Arizona are upset with her, especially Democratic voters,” Rep. Ruben Gallego, a fellow Arizona Democrat, told CNN on Wednesday. “I think they support the President’s agenda, and they hope that she will, in the end, support the President’s agenda, pass reconciliation — the Build Back Better agenda.”
Gallego, who has been frequently mentioned as a potential primary challenger against her in 2024, pointedly did not rule out a run against Sinema…
“There is a sense in which we no longer live in a democracy; we live under the tyranny of Kyrsten Sinema,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres, a progressive New York freshman. “I welcome the ideological diversity of the party. I can live with dissent. My colleagues and I have trouble living with what we perceive to be erraticism. The perception of erraticism is brought on by a lack of communication and clarity for where she stands.”
Gallego would be a top-flight challenger to her. He’s a Marine, a four-term congressman, a Latino in a state with a large Latino population, and even younger than Sinema is. The chief barrier to a successful primary challenge is that Democrats would worry about ceding the advantage of incumbency in the general election. Because Gallego already holds office in the House and has a degree of name recognition, they’d be less chilly to the idea of him taking her on.
But maybe that’s water under the bridge now that she’s poised to compromise. The way this is going to go, I assume, is Manchin, Sinema, and Schumer agreeing to a “proposed framework” for reconciliation sometime in the next week to reassure House progressives and Pelosi then hurriedly putting the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the floor, demanding a yes vote from lefties to try to boost McAuliffe before Virginia votes. Then the Senate will move forward with reconciliation in November. We shall see.