Sinema Seeks Changes to Dems’ Big Bill

Sinema Seeks Changes to Dems’ Big Bill

Sinema is the center of attention.
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be. We’re mourning the passing of the legendary Vin Scully, who died Tuesday at age 94.

Here’s what else is going on.

Sinema Seeks Changes to Tax, Climate Provisions in Dems’ Bill: Reports

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has yet to speak publicly about her views on Democrats’ last-minute budget package, but multiple reports Wednesday indicate that the centrist senator is seeking some changes to the legislation.

Axios’s Alayna Treene reports that Sinema wants to tweak the bill to include more funding for water security in the rapidly drying Southwest. Additionally, Sinema reportedly has concerns about the effects the 15% minimum corporate tax provisions will have on businesses and their employees, and may not support the effort to tighten the carried interest loophole that allows investment managers to pay a lower tax rate on some of their earnings.

Separately, Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine report that Sinema wants to add $5 billion to the package for water resiliency efforts, and opposes tightening the carried interest loophole. The latter provision is estimated to raise $14 billion in revenue over 10 years, a relatively modest sum relative to the size of the overall package.

Overall, though, the changes sought by Sinema could reduce revenues by more than $100 billion, Bloomberg’s Laura Davison and Erik Wasson report.

Lobbying intensifies: While the Biden administration reportedly wants to avoid pressuring Sinema directly as she makes her decision, plenty of others have been seeking her ear.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) – whose last-minute agreement with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on a $740 billion package opened the door for Democrats to attempt to salvage at least part of their long-term agenda, with a focus on mitigating climate change, reducing drug prices and raising corporate tax revenues – was spotted speaking quietly to Sinema Tuesday as she presided over the Senate floor. Though silent on the details, Manchin said he had a "good talk" with his colleague. "She’ll make a decision based on the facts," he told reporters.

Sinema also spent plenty of time talking to lawmakers from across the aisle. She spent more than an hour talking to Republicans on the Senate floor, Bloomberg Steven T. Dennis and Jenny Leonard report, including a lengthy conversation with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as well as shorter discussions with Sens. Tom Cotton (AK), Rob Portman (OH), Marsha Blackburn (TN) and Mitt Romney (UT).

The conversations are part of a larger lobbying blitz from interested parties, including Democratic colleagues who desperately want the bill to pass and Republicans and business interests who very much want to kill it. Sinema has been meeting with business groups to hear their views on the subject, including the CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Both the national Chamber of Commerce and its Arizona chapter are running ads pushing Sinema to vote against the bill.

A political network backed by billionaire libertarian Charles Koch is also taking aim at Sinema, as well as Manchin. The group Americans for Prosperity has launched online ads pressuring the lawmakers to pull the plug on the bill, which they say will exacerbate inflation. "Senator Sinema can stop it. Come on, Kyrsten ... Say NO for Arizona," one ad says.

The bottom line: While Sinema has remained mum so far, some Democrats think she’ll get behind the bill, but only after demanding a few changes. The reporting Wednesday suggests this view may be right. If so, the question remains whether her demands can be satisfied while salvaging the basic structure of the overall bill.

Inflation Reduction Act Could Save Nearly $2 Trillion Over 20 Years: Analysis

Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act would cut federal budget deficits by more than $100 billion through 2031, according to an analysis published Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office. When projected revenue increases from enhanced Internal Revenue Service enforcement are factored in, the deficit savings total more than $300 billion.

And a new report by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget finds that the longer-term savings would be far higher, totaling $1.9 trillion over two decades.

Even if expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies — slated to be extended for three years in the new bill — are eventually made permanent, the bill would still reduce deficits by $1.1 trillion over 20 years, CRFB says.

"There are several reasons why net deficit reduction in the IRA is much larger over the next two decades, on a per year basis than in the first nine years alone," CRFB explains in a blog post. "First, much of the prescription drug savings don't begin to materialize until 2027, when negotiated drug prices first take effect and the current law hiatus on the rebate rule ends. Second, those prescription drug savings will grow rapidly over time as Medicare is able to negotiate the price of more prescription drugs (they negotiate 20 per year). Third, much of the energy and climate spending represents a one-time investment and will be fully spent by late this decade. And fourth, interest savings accumulate and compound over time, particularly as rates are projected to rise."

Polls of the Day: Americans Support Democrats’ New Economic Plan

Three new polls find that Americans overwhelmingly support the new Inflation Reduction Act negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 61% of Americans favor the proposals to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and cap out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 a year. And 53% favor the corporate tax increases and deficit reduction in the legislation.

"At a time of bitter polarization, these are strikingly positive results for any bill explicitly associated with one party and not the other," Yahoo’s Andrew Romano writes. "Independents support each element of the Manchin-Schumer deal by the same wide margins as Americans overall — and even a plurality of Republicans favor (47%) rather than oppose (27%) its prescription-drug reforms."

Similarly, a poll by liberal group Data for Progress finds that 73% of likely voters support the legislation when told it will lower costs for families, ramp up clean energy production, lower prescription drug costs and reduce the deficit.

And a Navigator Research poll, conducted by the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group and obtained by HuffPost, found that about two-thirds of voters support the plan while 24% oppose it.

Jon Stewart Helps Push Veterans Health Care Bill Over the Line

Following an unexpected delay last week by Republicans, the Senate approved a veterans health care bill Tuesday night, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden to sign into law.

The bill, called the Honoring Our PACT Act, was passed by the House in July. It will expand health care for veterans who have illnesses associated with exposure to burn pits, which are used extensively by U.S. troops overseas to burn all sorts of toxic materials including fuel and have been linked to a variety of illnesses. Any U.S. soldier who has served in a combat zone in the last 32 years will now qualify for additional health coverage. The bill is expected to affect upwards of 3.5 million former servicemen and women, at an estimated cost of $280 billion over the next decade.

Republicans pull support: The bill had sufficient bipartisan support until last week, when Republican senators suddenly decided to vote against it. The opposition to the bill was led by Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who complained that the bill created billions in new mandatory spending without sufficient guardrails. Toomey preferred to fund the bill through discretionary spending, which could be changed and presumably reduced over time.

Critics argued that Republicans who had supported the bill just a few weeks ago changed their mind not because of Toomey’s critique of the funding but because they were angry that Democrats had, soon after passing a semiconductor and science investment bill with Republican support, succeeded in reaching an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on a sizable legislative package focused on climate change and health care.

Whatever the motivation, Republican opposition to the bill quickly crumbled under the weight of public opinion in favor of the bill, whipped up by former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who colorfully chastised the lawmakers for refusing to help sick veterans, for whatever reason.

"This isn't a game. Real people's lives hang in the balance," Stewart wrote to Sen. Ted Cruz, who was seen fist-bumping fellow Republicans on the Senate floor after shooting the bill down last week. "People that fought for your life," added Stewart, who has been an outspoken proponent of health care for veterans and emergency workers.

At the White House, Biden celebrated the passage of the legislation. "I look forward to signing this bill, so that veterans and their families and caregivers impacted by toxic exposures finally get the benefits and comprehensive health care they earned and deserve," Biden said.

The final senate vote Tuesday was 86 to 11. The senators voting no, all Republicans, were James Lankford (OK), Mike Lee (UT), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Rand Paul (TN), James Risch (ID), Mitt Romney (UT), Richard Shelby (AL), Thom Tillis (NC), Pat Toomey (PA), Tommy Tuberville (LA) and Mike Crapo (ID).


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