All eyes are on Sinema as Democrats face a week that could transform Biden’s presidency
But there remains at least one huge question mark – Sinema’s vote, whose support is just as critical as Manchin’s in the 50-50 Senate. Like Manchin, she opposed dismantling the Senate filibuster to pass other priority bills for Democrats. She helped reshape Biden’s Build Back Better bill before Manchin blocked it last year. But now the question is whether she will support the tax changes affecting private equity investors in the Manchin-Schumer compromise. While the 50th Democrat was expected to pass the measure with the deciding vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, Sinema has tremendous power to seek changes that threaten the bill’s fragile foundations, and she has so far avoided render its verdict on the agreement.
Manchin suggested on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that he hadn’t told Sinema about the package since he agreed with Schumer. But he paid tribute to his Arizona colleague and her earlier work on lowering prescription drug prices — a goal included in the new bill.
“When she looks at the bill and sees the whole range of what we’re doing and all the energy we’re putting in – all the lowering of prices and fighting inflation by lowering prices, having more energy – hopefully she’ll be positive about it,” Manchin said. “But she will make her decision. And I respect that.”
Manchin wields his power
Manchin, covering the Sunday TV talk shows, demonstrated his power at the heart of a tightly divided Senate as he gave his opinion on the legislation – always with an eye on voters at home in a deeply red state. Once again, Manchin has succeeded in putting his state, one of the poorest and smallest in the country, at the center of Washington’s policy-making.
He has also used his power to defend centrism at a time when both parties seem to be moving towards their most radical grassroots supporters. After repeatedly infuriating Democrats by thwarting Biden’s agenda, he is now disappointing Republicans who had hoped he would maintain his opposition. On Sunday, Manchin insisted his program would reduce inflation, increase national energy production, ensure some corporations pay their fair share of taxes and benefit Americans by lowering prescription drug costs for patients. of Medicare.
Climate finance isn’t the only key Democrat priority in the bill.
The Manchin-Schumer bill, now renamed the “Cutting Inflation Act,” includes expanded subsidies to the Affordable Care Act that would also cement another key reform forged by Democratic power in the 21st century – Obamacare. These twin achievements could help change perceptions of the Biden presidency — which, despite some successes, including a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 bailout and a rare bipartisan infrastructure law — saw some key points on the agenda as voting rights and founding police reform in the Senate.
While the bill’s passage may come too late to save Democrats from the painful punch of high inflation in November’s midterm elections, it could spur progressives demoralized by the inability to do more with it. the party’s weak control over Washington’s power. Taken together with the mobilization of liberals following the conservative Supreme Court’s overturning of the constitutional right to abortion and majority public support for gun restrictions following a series of mass shootings, Democrats would at least have a platform to run on in November if they can manage to weave a cohesive narrative about their accomplishments.
With Republican strategists believing the House is already heading their way, according to new CNN reports over the weekend, a late spike in Democratic enthusiasm could boost the hopes of party leaders who believe the Senate is n It’s not a lost cause — especially against a clutch of candidates like ex-President Donald Trump who could scare suburban voters.
GOP mobilizes to prevent Democratic victory
Manchin explained Sunday that he understands the invective launched by many Democrats and independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders after he derailed the previous “Build Back Better” plan because he believed it would fuel inflation already in rise. He said he hoped the new measure would pass by the end of this week, when the Senate is due to take a recess in August.
The timing remains an act of high tension – a single case of Covid-19 among Democratic senators, for example, could fracture the majority of the party since all Republicans are expected to be against it. There have been several recent positive tests among senators who sent them to solitary confinement, including Manchin.
Defending his deal with Schumer, the West Virginia senator said “in normal times” Republicans would support the bill because it would cut the deficit, speed up licensing for oil and gas drilling and would increase energy production – all of which the GOP has already registered to back it up.
But GOP senators are mobilizing to try to prevent the bill from passing, which would represent a victory for Biden and the Democrats before the midterms.
“It really looks to me like Joe Manchin was taken to the cleaners,” Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey told Jake Tapper on the “State of the Union.”
“Look, this bill, the corporate tax increase, is going to slow growth, probably exacerbate a recession that we’re probably already in,” said Toomey, who is retiring. He argued that controlling prescription drug prices would slow the development of lifesaving drugs and that the bill would subsidize “rich people who buy Teslas.”
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana told ABC News’ “This Week” that another multibillion-dollar spending bill could inject “an incredible amount of uncertainty” into the economy just as it was entering a recession.
The debate is raging in Washington on this last point following the publication last week of an official report reporting a second consecutive quarter of negative growth. The White House insists that given strong job growth, the economy is not in a classic contraction. In practical terms, however, the semantics of the interior of the Beltway make little difference to Americans facing much higher grocery bills than a year ago, even though prices at the pumps have come down somewhat in recent years. weeks.
Republicans accused of ‘cruelty’ to veterans’ health care
The battle over the climate and health care bill will parallel this week with heated controversy over the GOP’s blocking of a bill that would provide health care to veterans exposed to toxic fumes from combustion fireplaces, which were used to incinerate waste at military installations during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Activists, including comedian Jon Stewart, have accused the GOP of “cruelty” after some senators who voted for a previous version of the bill voted not to advance this one. Republicans, meanwhile, accuse Democrats of inserting new spending and complain that their amendments were not included. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said on ‘State of the Union’ that a Toomey amendment would place a ‘year-to-year’ cap on what the department can spend on veterans exposed to burn sites and would lead to “care rationing”.
Toomey told Tapper, however, that he had long opposed the measure because he wanted funding for fireplace care to be included in annual appropriations rather than the mandatory spending column. He said current legislation would allow Democrats to divert $400 billion for other purposes. And he denied claims that Republicans would delay the bill to prevent Democrats from winning another victory, after the Manchin-Schumer deal is reached, as “absurd and dishonest.”
However, the sight of Republicans voting against veterans’ health care — regardless of the intricate details of the case — threatens to reinforce the impression that the party is becoming more extreme. And it also distracts from key issues that are most likely to sway the midterm elections in favor of the GOP, including inflation, gas prices and Biden’s low approval rating.