Speed Reads

Decoding Sinemanchin

Biden explains Kyrsten Sinema's positions on the Build Back Better bill, says 'she's smart as the devil'

White House and Capitol Hill reporters spent all week working the phones, camping at the Capitol, and hounding Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to find out what's going on with President Biden's Build Back Better agenda — and Biden just laid it all out there at a CNN town hall Thursday night. 

Paid family leave is down to four weeks, from 12, and two years of free community college is probably out of the roughly $1.9 trillion deal taking shape, Biden said. Adding dental, vision, and hearing coverage to Medicare will be a "reach," though $800 dental vouchers are on the table, and it's very unlikely he'll be able to raise the corporate tax rate. Most of those items are being blocked by Manchin and/or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), he acknowledged, quipping: "Look, in the United States Senate, when you have 50 Democrats, every one is the president."

Sinema has been negotiating directly and privately with the White House, but Biden laid out her thinking, as he understood it. "First of all, she's smart as the devil," he said. "She's very supportive of the environmental agenda in my legislation, very supportive. She's supportive of almost all the things I mentioned relating to everything from family care to all those issues. Where's she's not supportive is she says she will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period."

There are other ways to raise revenue and increase taxes on corporations and the rich, Biden said, and his overarching goal is to present Congress with "a serious, serious piece of legislation that changes the dynamic for working class folks in America and middle class folks, and begins to have the very wealthy and corporations just begin to pay their fair share, not a lot. How we get there — we're down to four or five issues, which I'm not going to negotiate on national television, as you might guess," he added. "But all kidding aside, I think we can get there."

Biden also explained Manchin's opposition to the penalty part of his clean energy plan but suggested the West Virginia centrist would support putting that money toward tax credits and "set new technologies in place." But "nothing's been formally agreed to," he added.

Interestingly, Biden said he's open to entertaining proposals to end the filibuster for debt ceiling increases, voting rights, "and maybe more."