September 27, 2022

WASHINGTON – Having finally convinced red-state Sen. Joe Manchin to support a landmark climate and energy bill, Democrats are now waiting to hear from the other thorn: Kirsten Sinema.

The moderate Arizona Democrat is keeping everyone in suspense over whether she will vote for the deflation bill and boost her party’s chances in November’s midterm elections. That includes Manchin, who largely wrote the bill himself in secret talks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.).

Manchin spoke with Sinema on the Senate floor during a vote Tuesday, but declined to speak to them afterward. “We had a nice conversation,” he told reporters.

“He’s contributed so much — a lot to this bill,” Manchin said earlier Tuesday in MSNBC interview.

“This is everything Kyrsten agreed to in December — she signed the bill in December,” West Virginia Democrat added in a separate interview with radio host Hoppy Kercheval.

“We do more than pray, you know,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn). “Obviously we’re going to support her that this is good for the country and good for Arizona. So, I think we’ll be able to get there.”

The new bill omitted a wide range of tax proposals that Democrats had previously sought to enact, including higher corporate and individual tax rates and higher capital gains taxes — proposals that Manchin supported but Sinema did not.

But it includes a tax proposal that Sinema may oppose: closing the so-called rate loophole that gives wealthy investment fund managers lower tax rates on their profits than regular workers pay on their wages. Democrats have been shaking their fists at the loophole for decades, but never doing anything about it.

Business groups and private equity firms are lobbying Sinema to kill the provision, according to Bloomberg.

Several Democrats told HuffPost they had not heard from Sinema during the weekly caucus luncheon, which was virtual in light of the recent COVID-19 cases.

Sinema’s office did not respond to an inquiry about its stance on the bill this week.

Asked Tuesday if he has heard from constituents about the carried interest proposal, Sen. Mark Kelly, the junior senator from Arizona running for re-election this year, said, “I hear a lot about prescription drugs.”

But the legislation primarily raises revenue through a new minimum corporate tax and tougher enforcement of tax laws by the IRS — things Sinema has previously supported. The carried interest piece brings in only $14 billion of the many hundreds of billions that come from the other provisions.

The twin centerpieces of the legislation are a $300 billion investment in green energy and a wildly popular proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. The Inflation Reduction Act would also cap out-of-pocket drug costs at $2,000 a year for seniors enrolled in Medicare.

Democrats plan to use a legislative maneuver called reconciliation to pass the bill with just 50 votes. This means they cannot afford to lose any support in their caucus if it is to become law.

“Without all 50 of us, it’s not happening,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) acknowledged Tuesday.

Democrats could remove the carried interest provision when the Senate begins voting on amendments to the bill, but Manchin, for now, is insisting it stay in place.

Sinema has been outspoken about the need to fight climate change. Her state, like others in the western part of the country, has suffered from severe drought and wildfires that have been exacerbated by global warming.

Democratic senators hope he will.

“I would hope she would be supportive,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.). “I think he understands the climate risks. I mean, who doesn’t right now?”

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