Manchin and Sinema Dash Progressives’ $3.5 Trillion Dreams

The most important number for Democrats trying to pass a massive social spending and climate bill isn’t $3.5 trillion. It’s 50.

Because Democratic leaders hope to ram through the measure using the arcane reconciliation process, they need all 50 Senate Democrats to vote for whatever bill they come up with. And two of No Labels’ Senate allies — Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) — are not signing on to $3.5 trillion.

According to Axios, Sinema “is negotiating the size and scope” of the plan, “armed with her own spreadsheets about the costs and tax hikes needed for each program.” While Manchin “is getting attention for balking at a $3.5 trillion top-line price tag, Sinema’s accountant-like focus on the bottom line will be equally important to winning the votes of them and other key Democrats. … As early as July, she was clear the $3.5 trillion price tag was too high for her.”

The Associated Press says Democrats “have no votes to spare to enact Biden’s agenda,” and Manchin is “vital to the bill’s fate.” As Politico says, that means Manchin and Sinema “are essentially dictating the final terms” of the bill.

Top Democrats like House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn are publicly conceding that $3.5 trillion isn’t going to happen, and Speaker Pelosi has said she won’t bring any reconciliation budget that cannot pass the Senate to a House vote. Which makes it all the more confusing that House committees are hammering out spending plans based on that number — and, as Axios reports, considering “as much as $2.9 trillion in tax hikes for the next 10 years” to pay for it.

Glenn Hammer of the Texas Association of Business writes in the Dallas Morning News, “The multi-trillion-dollar Democratic proposal is a catchall for everything from green energy subsidies and tuition-free community college to Medicare and Medicaid expansion — resulting in a government so big that some Democrats are having a hard time backing it. … What’s worse, actual infrastructure investments are being held hostage.”

That’s true. Pelosi is trying to rush reconciliation to a vote before the promised September 27 vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill in order to twist reluctant Democratic members’ arms to support both. One measure is a massive budget-buster with tax increases, and without any Republican backing. The other is a bill worked out by members of both parties, passed in the Senate by a wide two-party majority, that enjoys public support.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer, “The next step forward is for the House of Representatives to pass [the infrastructure bill] when it reconvenes later this month and President Biden to sign it into law. Then we can get to work.”



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