Skeptical Sinema cinema: "Taking my time" on reconciliation call

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Is Kyrsten Sinema just being cautious — or is she delivering a little payback for all the vitriol she endured from fellow Democrats? Joe Manchin’s reconciliation deal with Chuck Schumer last week put all of the attention and leverage on the Arizona Democrat, who has pointedly remained silent. Manchin announced yesterday that he’d had talks with Sinema and that he felt those went well, although apparently not all that well:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) says he is exchanging materials with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to help her better understand the broad tax reform and climate bill he negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and says he is open to her suggestions as Democrats seek 50 votes to put the bill on the floor.

Manchin finally got a chance to speak to Sinema after lunch Tuesday, when she was scheduled to preside over the chamber. …

“We had a nice time. We had a nice time. Next?” Manchin said Tuesday when reporters pressed him for details of his chat with Sinema while she sat at the Senate dais.

Not a nice enough time to move Sinema, however, at least not so far. Today, she’s still standing by her decision to stand by:

So what does this mean for the future of the reconciliation bill? I’m still skeptical that Sinema would spike this very anemic version of Build Back Better. The longer this drags on, though, the slightly less skeptical I’m getting. This comment in particular from The Hill caught my eye:

Manchin was tight-lipped about the details of the conversation but made clear that he’s willing to consider changes she might want to make to the deal, which would raise $739 billion in new revenue over the next decade and reduce the deficit by more than $300 billion.

Emphasis mine. That sounds as though Sinema’s seriously balking at one part of the agreement, at least, probably the carried-interest tax hike that provides most of the bill’s funding. Sinema has adamantly opposed that proposition for the past year, which made Manchin’s inclusion of it into his agreement with Schumer almost a poison pill. Some have even suggested that Manchin did it on purpose to shake off progressives who have targeted him for their ire and protests for the past year and to give Sinema a chance to kill it instead, but that hasn’t much sense to me. Manchin doesn’t need and likely doesn’t want the support of hardline progressives in deep-red West Virginia.

But then again, an offer to renegotiate the repeatedly renegotiated “Inflation Reduction Act” makes no sense, either. If Sinema’s input was valued, why didn’t Manchin bring her into the talks? And if the key components of the bill are still up for negotiation, why bother with a parliamentarian review and “Byrd bath” now? This sounds as though Sinema has seriously balked at the structure of this reconciliation agreement, and may be waiting on the parliamentarian in the hope that Elizabeth MacDonough makes changes significant enough to warrant the collapse of the Manchin-Schumer agreement.

In the meantime, Senate Democrats and Joe Biden are left twisting in the wind. And given how they’ve treated Sinema — especially Biden’s “stand with Bull Connor” remarks on the elections bill and Sinema’s refusal to change the filibuster — that may be payback enough for the Arizona Democrat, even if she does go along in the end to protect her party.

Update: Jeff Dunetz has more on how the Inflation Reduction Act is anything but.