GOP, Chamber of Commerce lobby Sinema: Kill the bill, Kyrsten!

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Since killing the bill would also mean killing her career, my guess is the only way they convince her to do it is by promising her that she can be Trump’s running mate in 2024.

Which would work out for both sides, actually. Sinema would have a second act in politics as a Republican hero. And the country would be better off with her as VP than with some toady like Elise Stefanik or Kari Lake whose soul Trump owns.

Sinema killing the bill outright is out of the question but Sinema changing it so substantially that Joe Manchin decides he can no longer support it is a nonzero possibility. According to Bloomberg, Senate Republicans and business lobbyists are talking her ear off this week about flaws in the legislation. And she’s listening.

It will forever remain strange to me that a former Green Party member from a 50/50 state exerts more influence over Democratic legislation than, say, Jon Tester from deep-red Montana does. But all credit to her for that. She’s managed to make herself a swing vote in the Senate through sheer spine.

[T]here’s a lobbying blitz underway by Republicans and corporate interests to try and get her to shrink or kill either the carried-interest provision or the 15% minimum corporate tax, which together raise more than $300 billion over a decade. That’s a significant portion of the $739 billion in total revenue in the bill and a key factor in maintaining Manchin’s support for the deal…

Sinema in October publicly praised the idea of a corporate minimum tax. One possible tweak could be making an exception for cost recovery and depreciation tax breaks to benefit domestic manufacturing. But such a change could wipe out a third of the revenue from the minimum tax…

Sinema, who has avoided talking to the press, spent more than an hour Tuesday evening talking to Republicans, who are universally opposed to the Schumer-Manchin plan. That includes a lengthy conversation Tuesday on the Senate floor with GOP leader Mitch McConnell.

Only one thing is certain: She’ll drive a hard bargain with the White House.

Reports are swirling this afternoon that she has her eye on three parts in the bill, two of which will make Republicans happy and the other of which won’t. The unhappy one is that she wants to go *bigger* on climate change spending than even Manchin does, seeking more money to cope with droughts and ensure “water security” in Arizona and other southwestern states. Politico says her target there is another $5 billion. The happier parts have to do with slashing some of the tax-raising mechanisms in the bill, specifically the 15 percent minimum tax on corporations and the new tax on carried interest that Manchin wants. Some observers think that that the carried-interest provision was included by Manchin and Schumer only because they knew Sinema would want to cut it; she opposed it in previous versions of Build Back Better, after all. It would raise “only” $14 billion, so scrapping it to make her happy would be a small price to pay for her support.

Scrapping the tax hike on corporations would be trickier. Reconciliation bills are supposed to be deficit-neutral. If Sinema makes her vote contingent on not raising taxes during a recession, at a moment of high inflation, how do Manchin and Schumer react? If they agree to cut the corporate tax, a key revenue-raiser in the bill will be gone. Even if they can still make the bill deficit-neutral without it, Manchin has been running around on TV this week crowing that his legislation will pay down hundreds of billions of dollars of the national debt by bringing in more money than it spends. Will he still support the bill if and when that’s no longer true thanks to Sinema?

Last year she suggested that she was open to some sort of minimum corporate tax but now she’s listening carefully to business execs in Arizona who are telling her that it’ll be painful.

[I]n a private call with business groups on Tuesday, Sinema asked a question about the bill’s proposed 15% minimum tax on corporations that gave them some hope for optimism.

“Is this written in a way that’s bad?” Sinema asked, according to Danny Seiden, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, who relayed the call to CNN…

While Democrats say the bill would ensure large corporations don’t avoid paying taxes, instilling “fairness” into the tax code, the Arizona Chamber president argued that a minimum corporate tax makes the code “overly complicated.” Seiden said that raising taxes during a recession is particularly unpopular and would inject more uncertainty into the marketplace.

Republicans have been making that pitch to Sinema as well. Rob Portman told WaPo that a new corporate tax will be taken out of the paychecks of workers, who’ll “see their wages and benefits be reduced because of this taxation at a time when they’re having a really hard time keeping up with inflation.” Maybe Sinema is less comfortable with a minimum corporate tax now, at a moment of high economic anxiety for the working class, than she was nine months ago.

Senate Dems are already chattering amongst themselves about scaling back the tax provisions in the bill to make nice with Sinema, knowing that the GOP is going to force the issue anyway during the eventual “vote-a-rama” on the bill. Republicans will offer amendments to preserve the carried-interest loophole and to slash the minimum corporate tax and there’s nothing Schumer can do to keep them from being voted on. How will Sinema vote when they do? If she feeds Manchin a poison pill by siding with the GOP on those amendments, will he swallow it and vote for the final bill anyway?

I’ll leave you with an interesting point from Jim Geraghty about the risk Schumer and Manchin took by cutting Sinema out of the original negotiations. If she’s serious about “taking her time” and drawing this out, the vote may become increasingly uncomfortable for Senate Dems who are on the ballot in November. Will they really vote to raise taxes right before Election Day? On the other hand: Will they really vote no on the bill right before Election Day knowing how that would devastate progressives and potentially kill turnout? I think they’re stuck with whatever Sinema wants, whenever she decides she wants it.