Voices: All eyes are on Kyrsten Sinema now — from both parties

It turns out that getting Senator Joe Manchin on board was the easy part for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

After Manchin and Schumer announced their agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act, many Democrats on the House and Senate side either praised the spending bill or at least seemed optimistic about its measures to mitigate climate change and lower prescription drug costs.

The mercurial Manchin has been touting the legislation everywhere he can, even defending it on Fox News – the same network where he infamously killed Build Back Better last year.

But since Democrats have only 50 seats, that means they need every Senator in their conference plus Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie. All eyes are now on Kyrsten Sinema, the first Democrat to win a Senate seat from Arizona in 30 years.

Sinema is quite a different beast from Manchin. Throughout much of the fights about passing Build Back Better last year, the two conservative Democrats were often mentioned in the same breath – referred to as “Manchinema”, even – but they have always had significant policy differences.

While Manchin, who represents coal-heavy West Virginia, hesitated about the bill’s proposed additional spending and worried about various climate provisions, Sinema is more open to measures to mitigate climate change, but also more concerned about raising taxes. So far, she is keeping mum on the reconciliation bill. As various factions lobby her, watching her every move and with whom she speaks has become something of a pastime for reporters and C-SPAN viewers alike. “Senator Sinema does not have comment as she’s reviewing the bill text and will need to see what comes out of the parliamentarian process,” her spokesperson told me earlier this week.

During votes on Tuesday afternoon, Manchin himself spoke with Sinema. “She’ll make her decision based on the facts,” he told reporters after their meeting. “We’re exchanging texts back and forth, and she’s always been that. She’s extremely bright, she works hard, she makes a good decision on facts and I’m relying on that.”

Meanwhile, Republicans are still fuming about the fact that Schumer and Manchin announced their deal after the Senate passed its computer chips bill last week. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had threatened to scuttle that bill if reconciliation talks continued – and some are holding out hope that Sinema will unilaterally sink the next piece of legislation.

As the Senate voted (again) on legislation to provide care for veterans who suffered health complications after exposure to burn pits, McConnell and Senator Tom Cotton had an extended chat with Sinema on the floor. They were occasionally joined by Senate Minority Whip John Thune, whom Politico reported last year has tried on multiple occasions to convince Sinema to switch parties. At one point earlier in the day, Thune gave a speech on the Senate floor blasting Democrats while Sinema presided.

But for all the attention she’s getting, Sinema isn’t the only hurdle Democrats face.

The Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough’s office is currently reviewing the legislation to see if it is germane to the budget or whether anything is an “extraneous matter,” in a process often called the “Byrd bath” after legendary West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd. The process is often clandestine and the parliamentarian doesn’t announce its rulings directly, but rather through statements often released by the Senate Majority Leader.

For now, the Democrats remain determined. “We’re pulling out all the stuff we’ve been preparing for this procedural gauntlet on the Finance Committee for over a year and a half,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden told me.

Two other Democrats — Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota — both told The Independent that they thought the vote might go into the weekend.

“I think we’re gonna get this done. It’s gonna be a long slog, but we’re gonna get it accomplished,” Smith said.

Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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