Senator Joe Manchin sealed the deal by reviving President Joe Biden’s massive economic, healthcare, and climate bill. But it was another Democratic senator, Kirsten Senema of Arizona, who shaped the end product with care, calm, and intentionality.
Democrats on Friday presented a package estimated at $730 billion that in many ways reflects Sinema’s priorities and handwork more than other political figures who have played a key role in implementing Biden’s signature domestic policy agenda.
It was Cinema that early on rejected Biden’s plan to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, because it contravened the party’s primary goal of reversing the Trump-era tax break that Republicans had granted to American businesses.
Sinema has also scaled back her party’s long-running plan to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices with drug companies as a way to reduce overall costs to the government and consumers. Identified medications that can be negotiated.
Its insistence on climate change provisions has forced the coal state to stay on the table to accept about $369 billion in renewable energy investment and tax credits. It is also pumping more money to fight the western drought.
And it was Sinema who, with one last blow, gave her blessing to the deal by extracting a final demand — forcing Democrats to drop plans to close a tax loophole that benefits wealthy and high-income hedge fund managers, a longtime party priority. Instead, the final bill will keep the tax rate at 20% instead of raising it to the typical 37%.
“Kirsten Senema has proven to be a very effective lawmaker,” said Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who has negotiated extensively with his colleague over the past year, including the tax loop.
In the 50-to-50 Senate where every vote counts, the obscure and politically indefinable Sinema often uses her voice in powerful ways. Her negotiating at the highest levels of power – she appears to have equal access to Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and even Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell – has angered some, stunned others and left no doubt that she is a powerful new political figure.
While other lawmakers are concerned about the influence a single senator could have in Congress, where each member represents thousands if not millions of voters, Cinema’s approval late Thursday was the final hurdle Democrats needed to push the inflation-reduction law forward. The final round of exhausting votes on the package is expected to begin this weekend.
“We had no choice,” Schumer told reporters Friday at the Capitol.
Getting what you want in Congress doesn’t come without political costs, and cinemas that stack up the well-deserved balance.
Progressives are incensed by her behavior, which they see goes beyond sausage-making norms during the legislative process and comes close to disturbingly realigning the party’s priorities to a more centrist, if not conservative, lane.
Progressive Representative Robin Gallego is publicly considering challenging Sinema in the 2024 primaries in Arizona, and an independent spending group, Change for Arizona 2024, says it will support grassroots organizations committed to defeating them in the Democratic primary.
“New Reconciliation Bill will lower the cost of prescription drugs,” Gallego wrote on Twitter last weekend. “SenatorSinema is stuck with it to try to protect ultra-rich hedge fund managers so they can pay less tax.”
Indeed, both left and right, commentators have criticized her latest work – providing tax breaks to the wealthy. Some have pointed to previous prominent legislative figures—the late Senator Robert Byrd, for example, used his influence to leave his name on roads, civic buildings, and institutions across the West Virginia hillsides. They mock Cinema for establishing its legacy in this way.
“Amazing,” Governor Hugh Hewitt wrote on Twitter. “SenatorSinema could ask for anything she wanted–anything to spend money or change taxes–and with that leverage the state of Arizona chose…to protect the exemption from carry-forward interest to investors….not the border. Not the country. Tax relief. Awesome.”
Former Clinton Democratic Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote, “The ‘carried interest’ loophole for billionaire hedge fund and private equity partners is now out of the Inflation Control Act, courtesy of Kirsten Senema.
“It’s 2024. Teach her and get her out of the Senate.”
But Sinema has never cared much what others say about her, ever since she set foot in the Senate, breaking the rules with her outlandish fashion choices and willingness to reach Republicans across the aisle — and join them sometimes in private. Republican Senate toilet.
The Arizona senator seeks to emulate the maverick career of John McCain, drawing on his farewell address for her first address in the Senate, and attempting to embrace his rebellious style alongside hers—a comparison that attracts some looks for its reach and scope.
However, in her short stint in the Senate, Sinema has proven to be a serious study who understands the intricacies of legislation and a powerful dealmaker who does not waver. It has played a key role in landmark legislation, including the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Biden signed last summer.
“There wasn’t a bipartisan group that she wasn’t a part of,” Warner said.
In the end, the final package is thinner than Biden first envisioned with his lofty “Build Back Better” initiative, but it’s still a monumental task and the end of a surprisingly productive, albeit chaotic, legislative session.
The bill would bring health care gains to many Americans, put a cap on pharmacy costs for seniors at $2,000 out of pocket and provide subsidies to help millions of people who buy health insurance on the private market. It includes what the Biden administration calls the largest investment in climate change ever, with money for renewable energy and a consumer discount for new and used electric vehicles. They will mostly be paid for through higher corporate taxes, with about $300 billion earmarked for deficit reductions.
On climate provisions, a priority for Democrats, Sinema may have played a role in maintaining blanket provisions in the bill, when Manchin was less inclined to do so.
Environmental leaders, who have been involved in talks about the bill since last year, said Sinema helped craft the bill throughout. Environmentalists said she was particularly helpful last year when she made it clear that she supports climate and energy provisions, and that her commitment to climate issues has remained steadfast.
It addressed its own priority, money to help Western countries deal with drought, in the last installment.
Jamal Raad, executive director of Evergreen Action, an environmental group that pushed for the climate bill, said: “Senator Cinema needed the drought relief money to help her constituents avoid the worst effects of climate change. If that’s what is needed to win her support, good for her. .”
Back home in Arizona, the business allies who played a crucial role in Sinema’s efforts to build an independent image praised her willingness to resist party pressure over tax increases.
The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the National Association of Manufacturers ran ads against the deal, though they didn’t target Sinema by name, pleading her ear in a phone call this week.
Associated Press writers Matthew Daly in Washington and JJ Cooper in Phoenix contributed to this article.