October 4, 2022

Democrats on Thursday considered reshaping proposed taxes on the rich and huge corporations and possibly adding billions to the West’s historic drought, as lawmakers aimed for initial votes Saturday on the party’s economic legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced his timeline Thursday as party leaders worked behind the scenes in hopes of gaining the unanimity they’ll need to succeed.

The election-year bill, which houses the top priorities of President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats, would provide hundreds of billions in spending and tax credits to boost clean energy, bolster fossil fuels and renew government support for those buy private health insurance. It would raise revenue through tax credits, boost IRS tax collections, and cap drug prices, which would save money for the government and patients.

“We prioritize middle class and working families, rather than those at the top. God bless them, they’re doing well,” Schumer said.

Democrats need to nail down support from all their lawmakers to prevail in the 50-50 Senate and avoid a resounding self-inflicted defeat similar to the one they suffered last November on a much larger version of the package. Republicans are on track to oppose the legislation as a whole, saying its tax cuts and spending will worsen inflation and hurt the economy.

“What do Democrats want to do with all the money they want to siphon out of Americans’ pockets in the midst of a recession?” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “They want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on an issue that exactly 3% of the country says is our biggest problem: far-left environmental and climate spending.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., a centrist, has not made her stance clear and is seen as her party’s only potential holdout.

They are among a group of Western senators seeking to add about $5 billion to the legislation — billed as Congress’ largest climate change measure — to help their states deal with the epic drought and wildfires. The effort was described by a Democrat with knowledge of the talks who would speak only on condition of anonymity.

Sinema has also expressed interest in overhauling the measure’s 15 percent minimum tax on some companies with more than $1 billion in revenue, said another Democrat who was not authorized to publicly describe the senator’s views. They did not give details. The proposed tax would raise an estimated $313 billion over a decade, the legislation’s largest revenue-raiser.

In defense of that proposal, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., released data showing that between 100 and 125 companies reporting an average of $8.9 billion in revenue paid effective tax rates averaging 1 ,1%. The numbers were compiled by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

Sinema has been criticized for another proposal to raise taxes on executives at hedge funds and other private equity firms. It would raise $13 billion, a small portion of the bill, and is a favorite of progressives and Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., a conservative Democrat who helped write the overall legislation with Schumer.

The Senate will not be in session on Friday as Democrats continue their talks. That pause will also give Senate Rep. Elizabeth MacDonough time to decide whether any of the bill’s provisions violate chamber rules and should be removed.

Republicans want to kill as much of the bill as possible, either with MacDonough’s rulings or with nonstop votes expected to last until Sunday or beyond.

Even if the GOP amendments are rejected, they will consider mission accomplished if they force Democrats to take risky campaign-season votes on sensitive issues like taxes, inflation and immigration.

Vice President Kamala Harris can vote for a 50-50 tie and pass the bill.

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