Kyrsten Sinema’s problems are just beginning
The Democratic Party’s year-and-a-half quest to pass a legacy national climate bill, after several near-death experiences, has resulted in an unlikely triumph. Joe Manchin backtracked at the last minute and the party ended its infighting to bask, at least temporarily, in victory. It was a happy ending for everyone.
Except, maybe, Kyrsten Sinema. The Arizona senator emerged from Biden’s first two years deeply exposed and vulnerable to a primary challenge when she seeks re-election in 2024. No other Democrat in national office has had her career prospects so badly affected. over the past two years it.
So far, Democrats have spent most of Biden’s presidency agonizing over the seemingly inscrutable desires of Joe Manchin. In the end, however, Sinema was exposed as the biggest – or at least the hardest to justify – limiting factor to their ambitions. Interestingly, Manchin himself did more than anyone to clarify this status.
Manchin’s groundbreaking offer to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer was made up of policies that the entire caucus had agreed to, with one exception: he offered to cut tax relief for interest carried, a special advantage that Sinema had pledged to protect. This forced Sinema to demand the removal of this provision as a price for closing a deal. Sinema had tried to keep his support for the notorious silent disposition – the New York Time Discovered earlier this month, she has never uttered the phrase “carried interest” during a public legislative session. Manchin’s offer made his position public.
It’s possible that Manchin included this provision just so he could give Sinema something to negotiate. But the effect was to draw attention to his support for a deeply unpopular tax giveaway. How unpopular? Pro-Wall Street Democrats like Jamie Dimon and Steve Rattner — and even right-winger Donald Trump — have publicly criticized him.
Manchin also revealed Sinema’s alliance with the prescription drug lobby. “We had a senator from Arizona who basically didn’t let us go as far as we needed to go in our negotiations and made us wait two years,” he told voters. Manchin quickly returned to his remark, but it remains correct. Sinema forced Democrats to scale back plans to allow the government to negotiate the prices of the drugs it buys, roughly cutting savings to consumers and taxpayers in half.
After the Associated Press reported that Sinema had raised $1 million in private equity donations, Republican tax lobbyist Dan Mahoney came to his defense with an op-ed in an Arizona newspaper. “Much of the media would have us believe that Senator Kyrsten Sinema was bought off by the private equity (PE) industry and other Wall Street barons during recent negotiations on the Reduction Act. inflation. Some describe the events as quid pro quo in which money was funneled to him along with negotiations, securing his roadblock on legislation until Democratic leaders capitulated to his demands,” he said. he writes. “The reality is that Senator Sinema’s objection to tax increases has been well known since at least the beginning of last summer.”
It’s probably true. Sinema doesn’t need private equity money to fund her campaign – she could raise more money from the Liberals if she supported the party more reliably. A more likely explanation would be that Sinema is just an extremely soft touch to the business lobby and instinctively agrees with any argument, however absurd and selfish, presented to him as long as the person making it wears a suit. dear.
Mahoney’s editorial goes on to claim that Sinema was not only bought off, but that it was wise and correct to preserve the interest loophole. But the fact that she’s so strongly championed by “an associate of Snell & Wilmer LLP” who is “a registered Republican and regularly advises clients on corporate and private equity matters” tells you why Democrats probably want someone else takes his seat in the Senate.
What makes Sinema’s idiosyncratic endorsement of the business lobby’s least popular and defensible demands so infuriating is that she represents a state that is not at all particularly Republican. Arizona is a purple state, but tends to be slightly more blue. Meanwhile, there are Democrats representing states like Montana, Ohio and, of course, West Virginia who don’t feel they have to haul water for the plutocrats.
Sinema may have an overriding desire to be centrist, in the tradition of John McCain, and simply has terrible judgment on what issues to stake his independence on. The specific crisis she faces is that her widespread reputation for breaking with the party has taken on a very concrete form that is deeply harmful not only to the left wing but to almost the entire Democratic Party. The question facing her future is less whether she can overcome a primal challenge and more whether she will even try.