Sunday, September 26, 2021

Kyrsten Sinema Is Enigma at Center of Democrats’ Spending Talks

She's an enigma alright. 

I blogged about her almost 10 years ago, when she, umm, came off a bit less moderates. See, "Kyrsten Sinema, Bisexual Israel-Hating Antiwar Radical, is Face of Today's Democrat Party."

And now, folks are tripping on her role of an extra-"moderate" senator who easily switch parties.

An engima alright.

At WSJ, "Arizona senator says $3.5 trillion price tag is too high, holds discussions with Biden, party leaders":

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—Senate Democrats trying to pass a sweeping education, healthcare and climate package must first crack an enigma: What does centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema want?

Ms. Sinema, a key vote in the evenly divided Senate, has made clear she won’t support the package’s current $3.5 trillion price tag, announcing her opposition in July and reiterating it since then. The first-term senator from a swing state has held meetings with party leaders to discuss the legislation, but she hasn’t publicly suggested specific changes. Many Democrats remain uncertain over her policy stance and her political calculations.

Ms. Sinema is constantly engaged in “direct, good-faith discussions,” said Sinema spokesman John LaBombard. He shared a list of more than two dozen meetings or calls she has had to discuss the legislation.

Six of those conversations were with President Biden directly and three were with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). The rest were with Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), who is a member of the Finance and Budget committees, and White House and Democratic leadership staff. Representatives for Messrs. Biden, Schumer and Warner didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“Given the size and scope of the proposal—and the lack of detailed legislative language, or even consensus between the Senate and House around several provisions—we are not offering detailed comments on any one proposed piece of the package while those discussions are ongoing,” Mr. LaBombard said.

The package under discussion would represent a vast expansion of the country’s safety net, including paid family and medical leave, universal prekindergarten for three- and four-year-olds, affordable housing, and an expansion of Medicare benefits, among other measures. It would also increase taxes on companies and high-income households. Democrats hope to tackle climate change with provisions aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 80% and economywide by 50% by 2030.

Republicans are united in opposition to the proposal, calling it wasteful and potentially damaging to the economy. Democrats are aiming to pass the package through a process called budget reconciliation that allows a bill to advance in the Senate with a simple majority, rather than the 60-vote supermajority usually needed.

In private negotiations, Ms. Sinema has been focused on targeting how the funding of new programs will be distributed among income levels, according to Senate Democratic aides. Narrower targeting of benefits could lower the overall cost. Ms. Sinema has also expressed concerns centering on the structure of the proposed tax changes, aides said.

In a recent interview with the Arizona Republic, Ms. Sinema expressed interest in climate proposals, which she said would directly affect the desert state which is already experiencing droughts, wildfires and damaged infrastructure.

The focus on Ms. Sinema comes amid a broad negotiation within the party between the moderate and progressive wings. While some senators have expressed concerns about parts of the proposal and haven’t committed to funding the entire $3.5 trillion, Ms. Sinema and fellow centrist Sen. Joe Manchin of deep-red West Virginia have been the only members of the caucus to rule out supporting that level of spending.

In a meeting Wednesday at the White House with Mr. Biden where both centrists were present, lawmakers discussed reducing the size of the package to below $3 trillion, according to two people familiar with the discussion.

“The main goal is to get all 50 of us together which means that we really need to get down to what are the things that will enable Joe and Kyrsten to say yes,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii). “I personally am not sure what it is programmatically that they can support. I’d like to get that identified.”

Rep. Scott Peters (D., Calif.), a centrist Democrat and close friend of Ms. Sinema from their days serving together in the House, said Ms. Sinema will be pivotal in the talks. “I certainly think that everyone is well advised to be listening to her. She’s got strong opinions and she’s not going to be pushed around.”

Others note that along with the thin control of the Senate, Democrats can afford to lose just three votes in the House, and Mr. Biden can’t afford to take his eye off any lawmakers...

I dare say I like that woman. *Shrug.*

Still more.