Reading the Sinema tea
As Senate Democrats prepare to start voting on their in-progress climate, health care, and tax package this week, they are facing two big wild cards: the Senate parliamentarian and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the only member of the Democratic caucus who has not publicly backed the legislation.
The package, the Inflation Reduction Act, is designed to cut prescription drug costs, incentivize people to buy electric vehicles, increase energy production from green and petroleum sources, and make the tax code fairer by closing off ways for profitable corporations and wealthy individuals to evade paying federal taxes. The Congressional Budget Office estimated Wednesday that the legislation would reduce federal deficits by $101.5 billion to $305 billion over a decade.
The parliamentarian is poring through the bill, looking for provisions that run afoul of the rules guiding the budget reconciliation process Democrats are using to sidestep a Republican filibuster. She could rule that certain parts of the bill, like the $35 cap on insulin, have a significant effect on federal spending, revenues, and debt, Politico reports. Sinema, The New York Times adds, "has remained a tight-lipped enigma," though Democrats say they are communicating with her on the legislation in private. Republicans and business interests are, too.
Behind the scenes, Sinema is seeking changes to some of the tax provisions and wants $5 billion in drought resiliency funds, a priority for her home state of Arizona, Politico and the Times report. She reportedly wants to scrap a provision that would close the "carried interest loophole" used by hedge fund and private equity mangers to pay lower taxes on fees their clients pay them, cutting about $14 billion of the bill's $739 billion in new funding. Democrats are unsure where she stands on a second provision that would ensure large, profitable corporations pay at least 15 percent in federal taxes.
Sinema is making "a relatively modest ask in the grand scheme of the legislation," Politico reports, but it could still upset the careful deal worked out between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the Senate's other committed centrist. All 50 Democrats have to stick together to pass the legislation in the evenly divided Senate.