Sounds serious! And it might be, although the drama here might be as overplayed as the alliteration. The fact that Kyrsten Sinema didn’t immediately line up behind the reconciliation deal finally hashed out between Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin doesn’t mean she won’t vote for it in the end.
The silence keeps the option of opposing it alive, however, which is what has Senate Dems chewing their nails, Politico reports:
Almost every Senate Democrat is locking arms to push their $700 billion-plus climate, tax and health care bill past the chamber’s strict rules for avoiding a filibuster. Kyrsten Sinema is still a question mark.
The Arizona Democrat has not commented on the legislation and isn’t expected to do so until she reviews the text and the rulings from the Senate parliamentarian, according to her spokesperson. At the moment, with the package set to reach the floor as soon as the middle of next week, her timeline for reaching a decision is uncertain. …
Still, one person who spoke to Sinema described her as “frustrated” at not being looped in, while another person who talked to her said she was “totally shocked.” And Republicans think she’s their only chance at stopping the deal.
“She was not consulted,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who worked with Sinema last month to pass a bipartisan gun safety bill and lambasted Manchin repeatedly over the past 24 hours. By contrast, he added, “I know I can trust her when she tells me something. I’m beginning to think I can’t trust other people around here when they tell me something, because they so routinely lie about it.”
Republicans thought Manchin was their Obi-wan Kenobi, too … and look how that worked out. Republicans and hard-core progressives operated under the same delusion that Manchin was an actual crypto-Republican rather than a lifelong blue-dog Democrat. In the end, Manchin wanted a way to deliver some wins for his home state and his party too, especially since a GOP takeover in the midterms would leave Manchin in the minority, unless he flipped affiliations at that point.
One can be forgiven for believing the Manchin-crypto-GOP theory, given the nature of the West Virginia electorate. That’s not true of Arizona, which has trended more purple over the last decade. Sinema herself was a vanguard of the shift leftward in Arizona, in fact, and helped plow the ground for Mark Kelly’s win two years ago in a special election. Where Manchin might be comfortable on the moderate wing of the Senate Republican caucus if he chose to cross the aisle, Sinema would be entirely out of place, even with pals like John Cornyn welcoming her in a big-tent effort. Sinema is a declared progressive, not even really a moderate, who’s getting squeezed out in this session because of the radical nature of Schumer’s leadership and agenda.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, who has been publicly considering a primary challenge to Sinema from her Left, probably susses this out accurately:
And some don’t think Sinema has any other option but to support the deal in the end. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said “her state is going to need her on this” and she “politically doesn’t have a choice.”
Arizona doesn’t need the excess spending and climate-change nonsense, but Democrats clearly do. And in the end, Sinema has a vested interest in keeping Democrats in charge of the Senate, even if they lose control of the House. If Sinema can find an excuse to vote for this reconciliation package, she will. The fact that Sinema didn’t immediately object to the carried-interest tax change that she has vehemently opposed sounds more like a hint that she’ll be on board when it counts.
The Republicans’ real last hope isn’t Manchin or Sinema, but Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, and the vote-a-rama that follows:
Democrats are already diving into a behind-the-scenes scrub to ensure the bill complies with the special budget rules that allow them to evade a filibuster. But that slog could eat up pivotal time over the next week — and result in the nonpartisan Senate rules referee knocking out portions of the proposal.
And all that could play out in real time, with Democrats forced to litigate parts of their marquee party-line bill against Republican challenges as it’s being considered on the floor. There’s also the unlimited so-called vote-a-rama spree, where any senator, including Sinema, can seek to change the bill by offering amendments.
Don’t bet on the vote-a-rama changing anything. If the bill has 50-plus Kamala Harris votes to pass, then it will have enough votes to kill any poison-pill amendments, too. The big issue now is whether the provisions included will pass the Byrd-bath parliamentarian scrub, or if a critical component to the agreement gets knocked out. That’s likely the only way this reconciliation bill gets stopped now, save for absences by Senate Democrats that delay the vote.
This looks like a done deal. I wouldn’t mind getting surprised by another outcome, however.