Kyrsten Sinema is torpedoing Democrats’ plans to roll back the Trump tax law, forcing a last-ditch scramble for alternatives

Kyrsten Sinema
Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

  • Sinema’s opposition to rolling back swaths of the Trump tax law is prompting a scramble for alternatives among Democrats.
  • Other options include stepping up IRS enforcement and tightening international tax rules.
  • Democrats have little room for error and its unclear which tax proposals could get Sinema’s support.

Opposition from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to lifting tax rates on individuals and large businesses is derailing Democrats’ plans to roll back President Donald Trump’s tax law, setting off a last-ditch effort to seek alternatives that can lock in the centrist Democrat’s support.

A Senate Democratic aide familiar with the discussions told Insider that other options were still on the table, including stepping up IRS tax enforcement and tightening international tax rules. The Wall Street Journal first reported the story.

Insider reported last week that Sinema was opposed to bumping up tax rates on large firms and wealthy individuals, dealing a major setback to a centerpiece of the Democratic agenda: rolling back the 2017 GOP tax law.

Democrats argued for years that the law provided outsized financial benefits for the rich and helped accelerate inequality. Sinema’s opposition to both individual and corporate rate increases strips over $700 billion in new revenue for their nascent safety net plan.

President Joe Biden initially sought to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and lift the top individual income tax rate to 39.6% from 37%. For his part, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another key vote in the 50-50 Senate, has signaled he’d accept a 25% corporate tax rate.

Still, that leaves the party with few alternatives that can garner support from every Senate Democrat as they try to mold Biden’s economic plans into law over staunch Republican opposition. They have three votes to spare in the House and none in the Senate.

Some Democrats are starting to express frustration with the tumultuous negotiations on the safety net bill. “We didn’t have a new tax plan every half hour,” Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters on Wednesday. “We laid out a plan that was fully paid for, and we set our priorities.”

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, has said for weeks that Democrats can draw from an extensive menu of revenue-raisers to pay for their ambitious plans to expand healthcare and education, as well as mitigating the climate emergency.

Wyden’s proposals include what he calls a billionaires’ income tax, modeled on an earlier proposal he unveiled in 2019 to tax the accumulated wealth of the richest Americans. The plan hasn’t been released yet and it’s unclear how much revenue it could raise. Other possible alternatives include levies on large firms that issue stock buybacks to shareholders.

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Democrats failing to pass the latest voting rights bill will be a ‘make-or-break moment’ for filibuster reform, according to progressive activists

Virginia Shadron, of Atlanta, holds an anti-filibuster sign with the face of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of R-Ky., on it, during a rally in support of voting rights, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Virginia Shadron, of Atlanta, holds an anti-filibuster sign with the face of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of R-Ky., on it, during a rally in support of voting rights, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • Senate Republicans are poised to block a major voting rights bill for the 2nd time this year.
  • Progressive activists are hoping it’ll be a make-or-break moment for filibuster reform.
  • “Democrats can have the filibuster, or they defend our democracy,” one advocate said.

Progressive activists are hoping the Senate Republicans blocking debate on a major voting rights bill for the second time this year will trigger a critical “make-or-break moment” within the Democratic Party that will push forward reforms to the modern-day Senate filibuster.

All 50 GOP Senators are expected to filibuster the Freedom to Vote Act, a wide-ranging Democratic voting rights and election reform bill, on Wednesday. Democrats and activists have described the legislation as Congress’ last chance to quash a rise in new laws in GOP-controlled states that tighten voting rules and give partisan lawmakers more control over election administration.

Republicans have criticized the bill as a massive federal overreach into states’ authority to run their own elections, and, despite Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s attempts to get his GOP colleagues on board, none are expected to vote to proceed on it.

“There is no doubt that it will be a make-or-break moment for Senate Democrats and our democracy,” Eli Zupnick, spokesperson for Fix Our Senate, told reporters on a Tuesday call with filibuster reform advocates. “Despite Senator Manchin’s good-faith outreach, there are simply aren’t 10 Republicans willing to work with Democrats on this. Senate Democrats can have the filibuster, or they defend our democracy. There is no third option, and we’re running out of time.”

The current filibuster rules require a three-fifths majority to advance to debate on most legislation, creating an uphill battle to passing much of President Joe Biden administration’s non-economic agenda in a Senate split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Progressives see it as an archaic rule rooted in racism that today contributes to gridlock and dysfunction.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.,a key holdout vote on President Joe Biden's domestic agenda, chairs a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021
Sen. Joe Manchin tried and failed to get Senate Republicans on board with expansive voting rights legislation.

Aside from eliminating the rules altogether, some have suggested lowering the threshold to be able to pass voting rights and other civil rights legislation with a simple majority. Other proposals include returning to the talking filibuster or requiring 41 Senators to physically be on the Senate floor to block debate on legislation.

But Manchin and Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona have argued that the current filibuster rules foster bipartisanship by forcing the parties to work together, and that Democrats lowering the filibuster threshold to pass certain legislation with a simple majority would come back to bite them when Republicans retake control of the chamber.

But progressives say that Democrats shouldn’t assume that the filibuster will always be there to rein in the other party, with Zupnick going as far to call it “a dead rule walking.”

“I think the worst-case scenario for us is to not pass the things we can pass when Democrats are in power in the hopes of preserving this defensive tool, and then having Republicans get rid of it as soon as it stands in their way and passing the bad things we’re afraid of anyway,” Adam Jentleson, executive director of Battle Born Collective and author of “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate,” told Insider.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, take questions from reporters, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Bath, Maine.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, left, described his own “evolution” on the filibuster.

‘Democracy is more important than a Senate rule.’

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with Democrats and was initially skeptical of filibuster reform, described his own “evolution” on the issue during a recent call with reporters

“It’s a tough question. I don’t think it’s an easy call at all. All the predictions are that the Republicans will take over the Senate in two years has to be reckoned with,” he told Insider during the call on Tuesday. “But the alternative is to allow these voter restriction laws and the changing of the mechanics in the legislature to go forward, and then you’re stuck with the results. I think I’ve come down and decided that democracy is is more important than a Senate rule.”

Democrats are running out of time to make the most of their precarious legislative trifecta before 2022, an election year during which there will be far less political will to pass massive legislative packages.

The White House has put the bulk of its political muscle behind passing the parts Biden’s agenda it could secure enough bipartisan support for to avoid the filibuster (like the bipartisan infrastructure bill) or can pass on a party-line basis using the budget reconciliation process, like the Build Back Better Act.

The rush to pass both components of Biden’s economic agenda will likely to push filibuster reform to the back burner, but activists remain hopeful that Manchin will shift his thinking on the issue.

“The reality of this world is that Build Back Better will consume massive amounts of oxygen as long as it’s left undone,” Jentleson said. “But I think that this vote is a necessary part of the process that Senator Manchin is going through.”

“At the very least, it’ll be a marker along the path towards eventual reform,” he added. “Having this vote, having it fail, and showing that there are not 10 Republicans who are not willing to come forward and save our democracy is an important and necessary part of the process.”

President Joe Biden delivers a speech on voting rights at the National Constitution Center, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Philadelphia.
President Joe Biden delivers a speech on voting rights at the National Constitution Center, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Philadelphia.

‘A Nixon-going-to-China moment.’

Beyond the halls of the Senate, democracy activists’ patience with the White House is wearing increasingly thin.

Their frustrations stem largely from the disconnect between Biden describing the new GOP election laws as “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War” and his failure to endorse procedural changes to address it on the federal level.

On Tuesday, the White House said they would continue to press for federal election reform “through legislation, executive actions, outreach, the bully pulpit, and all other means available” – but made no mention of the filibuster.

Jentleson argued that the White House’s hands are less tied than then they may seem due to the significant authority Biden holds over matters concerning the Senate, where he served for 36 years.

“For Joe Biden to come out in support of filibuster reform would be a Nixon-going-to-China moment on this issue,” he said. “He has unique levels of credibility on this, and I think would be able to persuade recalcitrant Senators in a way that few other people in our political system could do.”

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Black Senate candidates are experiencing a fundraising bonanza in key 2022 races

Raphael Warnock.
Sen. Raphael Warnock speaks at Alfred E. Beach High School in Savannah, Ga., on July 8, 2021.

  • Black candidates running in pivotal US Senate races in 2022 have raised hefty sums of money.
  • Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia led the pack, with $9.5 million raised in the third quarter of 2021.
  • In the past, Black candidates often struggled with fundraising, but the tide has seemingly turned.

In the race for control of the US Senate in 2022, Black candidates across the country have posted hefty fundraising numbers in the last quarter, a significant development that could go a long way to buttress the viability of minority candidates in statewide federal elections.

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who was elected in a runoff special election in January and will have to run for a full six-year term next year, raised an eye-popping $9.5 million in the last three-month quarter.

Val Demings, the Democratic congresswoman and former police chief of Orlando, Fla., brought in $8.5 million in the last quarter for her bid to defeat GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

And Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole Black Republican in the upper chamber and a potential 2024 presidential candidate, raked in $8.4 million for his reelection bid.

Since the country’s founding, there have only been 11 Black Americans who have served in the Senate – a list that includes former President Barack Obama, who represented Illinois, and Vice President Kamala Harris, who was elected from California. There are currently three Black members in the upper chamber – Warnock, Scott, and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

While many Black candidates have long sought to make the leap to the Senate, they were often overshadowed by more prominent candidates – usually former statewide officeholders – who were by and large better-funded and often secured the lion’s share of party endorsements. But the fundraising numbers appear to reflect a shift in the perception of electability that previously bedeviled Black candidates.

Donna Brazile, a former Democratic National Committee Chair, told Politico that the competitiveness of Black candidates was something that previously had to be substantiated to prospective donors.

“This may be an era where we can level the playing field,” she told the news outlet. “I think Black candidates have proven more and more than ever that we’re talented, but we didn’t have the resources to compete … this is the future. This is what I think Dr. [Martin Luther] King and his generation always envisioned.”

Black candidates have raised significant amounts of money in the past, but the most recent quarter’s total reflects not only the growing pool of donors but the emergence of Black political leaders across the country.

The former NFL star Herschel Walker, who is running as a Republican in the Georgia Senate race, raised $3.7 million in the first five weeks of his campaign, while former state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley, who’s running as a Democrat in the open North Carolina Senate race, raised $1.5 million in the last quarter.

In Kentucky, former Democratic state Rep. Charles Booker raised $1.7 million in the most recent quarter in his bid to defeat GOP Sen. Rand Paul, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes of Wisconsin took in $1.12 million in a multicandidate primary to determine who will be the party’s nominee in one of the most competitive states in the country.

Kevin Harris, a Democratic strategist and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, told Politico that strong Black candidates were always in the picture, but fundraising was often a challenge.

“I think that the [candidate] pipeline is definitely there,” he said. “But what hasn’t been there before, is this sort of interest in funding African American candidates, and seeing where that goes. That’s never happened.”

Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison, who ran in the 2020 South Carolina Senate race and raised over $100 million during the course of the campaign, has served as a resource for Black candidates, according to Politico.

Harrison told the news outlet that digital advertising and social media allowed him to bypass roadblocks that Black candidates previously faced when seeking to build up their candidacies against more established figures.

“Part of the secret sauce for me – and I think Lindsey Graham picked up on it on the Republican side – was how you build a grassroots donor base. How do you tap into that type of energy in order to fund your campaign?” Harrison said. “There are techniques and things that you can do. And you can see the difference.”

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Democrats say they ‘have no sense’ of what Kyrsten Sinema wants in Biden’s safety net package as she opposes tax hikes

Kyrsten Sinema
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

  • Sinema is frustrating many Democrats on Capitol Hill as talks on Biden’s social spending bill stall.
  • Two Senate Democratic aides tell Insider she’s opposed to any corporate and individual income tax increases.
  • “I can’t put myself in her head,” House Budget Chair John Yarmuth recently told reporters.

It’s not just Bernie Sanders. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is vexing many of her Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill.

The Arizona Democrat is off fundraising in Europe, The New York Times reported, as negotiations on Democrats’ social spending bill stall out with few signs that Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia will resolve their differences over a large climate, education, and healthcare spending bill.

The centrist pair are sparking frustration among rank-and-file Democrats, who want to quickly wrap up talks and muscle the spending plan through the reconciliation process. That allows the party to approve it with a simple majority and bypass unified GOP opposition,along with the Senate’s usual 60-vote threshold. Democrats need Manchin and Sinema’s votes for the plan to clear the Senate. But at least it’s (somewhat) clear what Manchin wants.

Manchin says he wants to contain the bill’s price tag to $1.5 trillion and restrain the eligibility for new benefit programs like the child tax credit to low-income Americans. But Sinema doesn’t speak with reporters on Capitol Hill and has only negotiated with the White House.

Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, chair of the House Budget Committee, told reporters on Tuesday, “I have no sense of what Sinema wants.”

“I can’t put myself in her head,” the retiring Kentucky Democrat said. “And don’t want to.”

A major holdup in the ongoing talks is Sinema’s opposition to any tax rate increases for individuals and large corporations, per two Senate Democratic aides familiar with the matter. Her position threatens to deprive the package of over $700 billion in revenue to finance the bulk of Biden’s agenda. The president has repeatedly promised his plan will be fully paid for and won’t add to the deficit. Most Democrats are also fervent in their desire to roll back President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts.

“I do not think anyone in the caucus believes that to be a tenable position,” one of the aides told Insider. The New York Times first reported Sinema’s position. Her office didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

“So far this week, Senator Sinema has held several calls – including with President Biden, the White House team, Senator Schumer’s team, and other Senate and House colleagues – to continue discussions on the proposed budget reconciliation package,” a Sinema spokesperson told Politico.

Biden expressed a flash of frustration with Manchin and Sinema last week during a press conference. “I was able to close the deal with 99% of my party,” Biden said as he held up two fingers. “Two. Two people.”

Progressives recently assailed Sinema and Manchin for not being clear in laying out their priorities. Sen. Bernie Sanders said on a press call on Tuesday “the time is now long overdue” for both senators to tell Democrats what priorities they’d be willing to eject from the spending bill, ranging from prescription drug negotiations

Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the 96-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters that progressives were open to cutting the price tag but not the overall scope of the package, favoring packing as many priorities into the legislation as possible, with shorter expiration dates.

“We’re not going to pit childcare against climate change,” she said. “We’re not going to pit seniors against young people.”

Whether Sinema ends up budging or digging in on her views means the difference between a hefty bill that transforms the economy or a skinnier one that only changes it around the edges. If she’s serious about no tax increases, then the bill could be even smaller than anyone is talking about.

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Kyrsten Sinema is reportedly threatening to hold Biden’s agenda hostage. She wants to pass the bipartisan roads-and-bridges bill now.

Kyrsten Sinema
Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Arizona Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is threatening to torpedo Biden’s agenda, telling a group of fellow moderate Democrats in the House of Representatives that she will not support a multi-trillion dollar reconciliation package until Congress passes the $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill first, Reuters reported Thursday.

Reuters cited a source briefed on the meeting in its report about the decision of Sinema, a key moderate whose resistance to the reconciliation deal has stalled Biden’s signature legislation.

Sinema wields power to prevent legislation from moving forward in the split 50-50 Senate.

The $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package is a staple of President Joe Biden’s agenda. But moderates Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin are holding out on the bill as a separate bipartisan infrastructure package is discussed in the House.

House progressives, meanwhile, have refused to pass the infrastructure deal unless the reconciliation package is approved at the same time.

Progressives revolted the last time House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to hold a vote on the roads-and-bridges bill alone. Now, Sinema seems determined for it to pass first.

Reps for the senator did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Insider.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren says billionaires have ‘enough money to shoot themselves into space’ because they don’t pay taxes

Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on September 28, 2021.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized the ultra-rich for traveling to space but not paying their taxes.
  • On “The View,” Warren discussed Biden’s spending package that would increase investments in healthcare and climate.
  • “The money is going to come from the billionaires who don’t pay their taxes and therefore have enough money to shoot themselves into space,” Warren said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday criticized wealthy Americans who have ventured into outer space but haven’t paid their taxes on Earth.

In an interview with “The View” on ABC, the Massachusetts senator discussed President Joe Biden’s trillion-dollar legislative plan, saying that Democrats want to make the ultra-rich pay higher taxes to help cover its costs.

“The money is going to come from the billionaires who don’t pay their taxes and therefore have enough money to shoot themselves into space,” Warren said.

“It’s going to come from giant corporations like Amazon,” she continued.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the second richest person in the world, in July flew to the edge of space on a rocket built by his space company, Blue Origin. The move prompted criticism. Before his journey, more than 185,000 people signed petitions not to allow Bezos to return to Earth.

“Billionaires should not exist … on earth, or in space, but should they decide the latter they should stay there,” one petition’s description read.

Bezos did not pay federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011, according to a bombshell report of IRS documents published by ProPublica in June. Amazon also paid no federal taxes in 2017 and 2018. Over the years, the billionaire has since his wealth increase, with a current net worth over $190 billion.

The world’s richest person, Elon Musk, likewise saw his wealth grow but paid a small amount in taxes, according to the ProPublica report. From 2014 to 2018, Musk’s wealth increased by $13.9 billion, but he reported only $1.52 billion worth of taxable income to the IRS. Comparing the $455 million he paid in taxes to his wealth gains, ProPublica said Musk paid a “true tax rate” of 3.27%.

Musk also has his own space company, SpaceX. He has not traveled to space yet, but has paid for a ticket for a future flight on Virgin Galactic, a company founded by fellow billionaire Richard Branson.

Democrats have blasted big companies and the ultra-wealthy for avoiding taxes and for not paying what they describe as their “fair share” in taxes.

“I’m sick and tired of the super-wealthy and giant corporations not paying their fair share in taxes,” Biden tweeted last month. “It’s time for it to change.”

Biden’s spending package would increase investments in education, healthcare, childcare, and climate, aiming to boost the working class of the country. But negotiations are ongoing as the Democratic party’s progressives and moderates remain divided over elements of the plan.

“Nobody is going to get everything they want – and that includes all the senators,” Warren said, alluding to Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have opposed the size and the scope of the package.

“I want the folks on the other side to put on the table what they don’t want,” she added.

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Free community college, child tax credits, and affordable housing are among safety net measures on the chopping block as Democrats struggle to find middle ground with centrist holdouts

Nancy Pelosi Chuck Schumer holding pen
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

  • Democrats are grappling with the likelihood of harsh cuts in their safety net bill.
  • “It’ll definitely be painful. And I don’t know how that’s going to shake out,” Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia said in an interview.
  • Some top Democrats are already floating another reconciliation bill next year to pick up what gets cut.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California made it crystal clear on Tuesday: You can’t always get what you want – and it’s time for Democrats to make some tough decisions as negotiations on their social spending bill reach a make-or-break phase.

Pelosi is bracing lawmakers for the massive cuts required to assemble a spending package capable of clearing their threadbare majorities in the House and Senate, garnering the votes of a small centrist faction made up of figures like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

She lamented at a news conference that Democrats won’t be able to pass a social safety net package amounting to $3.5 trillion due to centrist resistance. But she argued the plan that emerges from back-and-forth negotiations will still be “transformative” and aligned with the party’s goal to remake the economy for the better.

Congressional Democrats and the White House are wrestling with huge dilemmas as they labor to get President Joe Biden’s economic plans over the finish line. Measures including childcare subsidies, new Medicare benefits, a revamped child tax credit, tuition-free community college, and affordable housing are all on the chopping block. Pelosi has opened the door to both dropping spending priorities and shortening their duration to squeeze as much as possible into the final legislation, with no price tag locked in yet.

Some are acknowledging grueling sacrifices will have to be made as pent-up frustration with centrists spills out into the open amid the slog. “It’ll definitely be painful,” Rep. Donald Beyer of Virginia, who sits on the tax-writing House Ways and Means panel, said in an interview. “And I don’t know how that’s going to shake out.”

Beyer, who chairs the Joint Economic Committee, said he was “frustrated” with Manchin and Sinema. “I certainly wish that Manchin and Sinema were of the same commitment to Build Back Better bill than the other 48 senators are,” he told Insider. “But they aren’t and this is what you get.”

‘Always a high-wire act’

Bernie Sanders Joe Manchin
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Joe Manchin (W-V).

Democrats pushing for a sweeping anti-poverty package financed with tax hikes on large firms and wealthy individuals are crashing into resistance from Manchin and Sinema. Since they’re employing a legislative maneuver called reconciliation to pass it with a simple majority, Democrats can’t lose their votes in a 50-50 Senate.

Their lack of clarity sparked anger among many Democrats including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He’s assailed Manchin’s call for a sharply curtailed $1.5 trillion bill and said he doesn’t even want to be in the same room to negotiate with him. He’s also fiercely criticized Sinema.

“With Democrats, it’s always a high-wire act,” Jim Kessler, the executive vice president for policy at the center-left think tank Third Way, told Insider. “The negotiations are always public and caustic.”

Kessler, a former Senate Democratic aide, said he believed the legislation will brush against “at least 20” near-death experiences, similar to the passage of President Barack Obama’s signature health law a decade ago, the Affordable Care Act.

He laid out the possibility of a bill tailored to three areas: climate spending and related tax credits, then tax cuts for middle class families, and provisions that strengthen people’s ability to work like tuition-free community college that totals roughly $2 trillion. The sum is in line with what Biden privately told House Democrats about a potential compromise that could range from $1.9 trillion to $2.3 trillion.

That amount would cut the size and scope of the package’s major planks and probably force Democrats to eject others. They pushed a pathway to citizenship for 8 million unauthorized immigrants in the party-line bill. But the Senate parliamentarian has advised that it be excluded and Manchin told Latino Rebels it was “too big” to include.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia recently suggested to Insider the idea of adding a means test for tuition-free community college, since that would target federal assistance to lower-income Americans. A Democratic aide told Insider that possibility was on the table to cut down on costs.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget released an analysis on Tuesday, illustrating what a $2.3 trillion bill could look like. It would include an expanded child tax credit, permanently extending ACA health insurance subsidies, paid family leave, and “affordable” pre-K and community college. But it would exclude medical leave.

Beyer said given that Democrats view fighting the climate emergency as critically important, those tax breaks and green energy provisions stand the best chance of having a longer duration.

Referring to the Biden child tax credit as “kiddie checks,” the Virginia Democrat said he believed they could be “reasonably reduced,” and a future Congress would renew them.

Some Democrats float another reconciliation bill next year

John Yarmuth Nancy Pelosi
House Budget Chair John Yarmuth and Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a press conference.

Some centrist House Democrats have blamed progressives for pushing priorities that cost the party over a dozen seats in last year’s election, handing them only a three-vote majority. But progressives argue the dynamic has flipped and they occupy a new space in the party: Rescuers who pulled an economic agenda from the brink of oblivion, and salvaged their odds of scoring wins in the 2022 midterms.

“We’re not going to pit child care against climate change,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said on a press call on Tuesday. “We’re not going to pit housing against paid leave. We’re not going to pit seniors against young people.”

Affordable housing is another big priority that faces being cut. House Democrats set aside $300 billion to help renovate public housing and build new homes for low-income Americans, Insider’s Ben Winck reported.

“You can’t try to fit all this stuff into a bill half the size,” a Senate Democratic aide told Insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity to be candid. “Then nothing will work well and it will be like ACA all over again, where people experienced no benefit in their lives for years.”

In late September, progressives forced Pelosi to bail on approving a $550 billion infrastructure package focused on roads and bridges – legislation that Manchin and Sinema helped design – until the bigger spending bill containing the bulk of Biden’s priorities gets hammered out. They are pushing for the biggest bill they can get and favor sunsetting new benefit programs within a few years, daring Republicans to block their extension.

Kessler argues it “makes more sense” to fund fewer programs robustly so they wind up more effective and quickly produce tangible improvements in people’s lives. There’s also a high risk Democrats won’t be able to go back and fix mistakes in their sprawling bill: For years during the Obama administration, Republicans blocked efforts to repair the ACA’s flaws as it got off the ground, and they would likely do so for this bill if they win back a chamber or both in the 2022 midterms.

Some Democrats are starting to float the possibility of another reconciliation bill next year, a long shot given that policy usually takes a backseat to campaigning in midterm years. But Pelosi and her top lieutenants aren’t closing the door.

“I have broached the subject with a number of people in leadership positions in the caucus,” Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, chair of the House Budget Committee, told Insider. “And there is certainly a willingness to pursue that idea if it makes sense at the time.”

Yarmuth, who recently announced his retirement, said he views anothe reconciliation bill as a chance to “put Republicans on the spot.” He mapped out a scenario where Democrats stuff a bill with potentially excluded but popular provisions like expanded Medicare benefits and bait Republicans into opposing it, calling it “good politics and good policy.”

“I do think it’s feasible,” Beyer said of another party-line bill next year. “We all are aware of the fragility of the majorities in the Senate and the House, we’re gonna do our very best to keep building on them.”

He cautioned that dozens of frontline Democrats in swing districts may become harder to court on another bill. But the potential for more legislation is there.

“It’s important for Democrats not to think that we get one year and then the rest of the Biden era is lost,” Kessler said.

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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer needs to retire now – or the country may be doomed

stephen breyer
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

  • Liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, needs to retire – now.
  • Democrats control the Senate and White House, but that control is precarious.
  • Breyer should give Democrats a chance to appoint his successor and keep the Court from becoming a seven to two conservative majority.
  • Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesman for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

It’s time for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire.

With both the White House and Senate in their control (for now), Democrats have what has become the rare moment to replace the longtime liberal justice on their own terms and stem the Court’s undemocratic move to the right.

Breyer needs to give the party that chance. Now.

The rarest of appointments

The narrow victories in Georgia by Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock paved the way for a Democratic Senate majority, and with it, the ability to freely appoint federal judges and justices.

The Biden administration and the Senate have been wasting no time using that appointment power: Biden has been nominating judges to the federal bench faster than any of his predecessors. But the most important appointment has thus far eluded him: a Supreme Court Justice.

In the era when the Supreme Court has substantial power over the direction of the country, appointing young justices who can serve for decades is essential.

Republicans have recognized that power and have made the Court a cornerstone of their minority-power plan over the past decade: their three most recent nominees were all younger than 55 at the time of appointment. Both of Obama’s appointees were in their 50’s as well. Going back even further, Clarence Thomas was 43 when he joined the Court in 1991.

With so much at stake, having a reliable vote for decades is vital.

That is why progressives are pushing for Justice Stephen Breyer, age 83, to retire. A Clinton appointee, he’s been a reliable vote for the liberals since he joined the Court. But if he doesn’t retire while Democrats own the Senate, we will likely see the arrival of another conservative justice, tipping the balance of the Court even further out of whack.

2020 redux

We’ve seen this “will they or won’t they retire” dance play out before.

In 2013, President Obama had a lunch with liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at which he indirectly encouraged her to retire, knowing that Democrats might lose the Senate in 2015, and with it the chance to appoint her successor.

We all know what happened from there. Democrats did in fact lose the Senate majority and eventually the presidency. Ginsburg remained on the court until her death in 2020, paving the way for President Trump and Senate Republicans to ram through an appointment just before the 2020 election. As a result, the balance of the court shifted even further to the right, with six of the nine justices having been appointed by Republicans.

This one change on the Court has pushed the Court in a radically conservative direction, taken the swing vote power away from Chief Justice John Roberts, and will almost certainly have a historically negative effect on abortion rights and gun safety. Given the terrifying prospects of the Court now, imagine a 7-2 Court if Breyer doesn’t act now.

The time is now

With the narrowest of Senate majorities, the next year is perhaps Biden’s only chance to replace Breyer.

Midterms have a historical tendency to go against the party of the president, which means it’s quite likely (though by no means a sure thing) that Republicans will control the chamber after the 2022 elections. We know a Republican-controlled Senate can’t be trusted to vote on a Biden appointee, so it truly is now or never for appointing a young, liberal Justice to the Supreme Court.

Breyer has served nearly 30 years with distinction and has hinted that he doesn’t want to retire in part because he doesn’t want to politicize the court. But that ship has sailed: the Court is already in a full-blown legitimacy crisis and has been deeply politicized by the GOP. If Breyer were to retire when Biden can no longer appoint his successor, the crisis would only deepen.

We have seen the terrible decisions that a 6-3 conservative court has made, including moving closer to reversing Roe vs. Wade and ending the eviction moratorium that kept so many Americans housed during the height of the pandemic.

A 7-2 conservative-dominated Supreme Court would be much worse and would only further many Americans’ belief that the Court is no longer a trusted American institution.

I expected Breyer to retire at the end of the last Supreme Court term a few months ago. That would have been the best time to do it — before a new docket of cases arose.

Now I’d bet that he’ll do it next Summer after the current term ends. But the best time would be right now, leaving the Court upon the confirmation of a successor and leaving nothing to chance, either.

The clock is ticking.

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Trump urged GOP senators to vote ‘no’ on raising the debt ceiling. 11 senators, including Mitch McConnell, ignored him and voted to pave the way for passage.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gives a thumbs up when asked whether a deal has been reached regarding the ongoing debate on the national debt reduction on July 31, 2011 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gives a thumbs up when asked whether a deal has been reached regarding the ongoing debate on the national debt reduction on July 31, 2011 in Washington, DC.

  • Former President Donald Trump has been vocal about disagreeing with raising the debt ceiling.
  • But 11 GOP senators helped Democrats clear a procedural vote that paved the way for final passage.
  • Trump’s sway is more limited in the Senate compared to the House.

Former President Donald Trump urged Senate Republicans to oppose raising the debt ceiling only minutes before the vote began. But 11 GOP senators – including the upper chamber’s top Republican – ignored his comments anyway and helped Democrats clear a procedural hurdle in the deadlocked Senate allowing the bill to pass in the end.

“Republican Senators, do not vote for this terrible deal being pushed by folding Mitch McConnell. Stand strong for our Country. The American people are with you!” the former president advised.

Eleven GOP senators helped Democrats clear an initial procedural vote to cut off debate and break the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster. That allowed the measure to advance to final passage with only Democratic votes.

Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Shelley Moore-Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, John Cornyn of Texas, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Richard Shelby of Alabama, and John Thune of South Dakota helped Democrats break the filibuster. The cloture vote was 61-38; the final vote on the bill was 50-48 along party lines.

Trump’s influence is more limited in the Senate compared to the House, where he holds outsized sway among Republican lawmakers. In the summer, 19 Republican senators supported President Joe Biden’s $550 billion infrastructure bill, despite his demands that they tank it. Still, that doesn’t mean he wields no influence in the Senate.

“I think Donald Trump always influences people’s votes whether he says something or doesn’t,” Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told reporters.

Senate Republicans were largely upset with McConnell’s maneuver on Thursday, and they struggled to dig up 10 votes in their ranks to clear the first procedural vote, known as cloture. Raising the debt ceiling would avoid a government default. An agreement made Thursday allows for a $480 billion increase until December 3.

The debt ceiling is the statutory cap on how much the government can borrow to repay its bills. Suspending the limit gives the US more time to pay its bills for pandemic stimulus and other key aid programs from the last two years. If Congress fails to raise the limit, the government can default on its debt and plunge the US into a new economic crisis.

“We’ve averted the fiscal cliff – at least for now,” Murkowski told reporters after the vote.

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Mitch McConnell reverses on the debt ceiling as Congress poised to get another two months to avoid a government default

Mitch McConnell walks down a hallway.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives to speak to reporters ahead of a test vote scheduled by Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York on the bipartisan infrastructure deal senators brokered with President Joe Biden, in Washington, Wednesday, July 21, 2021.

  • The Senate approved a short-term debt limit extension through early December, sending it to the House.
  • The move marks a reversal for Sen. McConnell, who previously urged the GOP to block Democrats’ efforts.
  • The deal punts the risk of a government default to December, when Congress will have to raise the ceiling again.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Senate approved a measure to extend the debt limit through early December, defusing a perilous showdown that brought the US to the edge of default. The bill now goes to the House for a vote sometime next week.

The tally was 50-48 with every Senate Republican opposed to the measure during final passage. But 11 GOP senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined Democrats to cut off debate and break the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold in an initial procedural vote.

“Republicans played a risky and partisan game, and I am glad their brinkmanship didn’t work,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a floor speech.

McConnell caved Wednesday afternoon, offering Democrats a short extension to avoid a looming government default as . The senator from Kentucky had been blocking Democrats’ efforts to raise the ceiling since early last week. Thursday’s vote marks a reversal from that stance and arrived just 11 days before the government’s estimated deadline.

It raises the debt ceiling by $480 billion, letting the government continue borrowing freely until December, according to Treasury Department estimates.

Many Republicans were unhappy with McConnell’s olive branch and the party struggled to scrounge up enough votes to cross the 60-vote threshold to end debate.

“We need to be able to get on this,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told Insider. “The only way we’re gonna be able to get on this is if we can get 60 votes. I’m gonna be one of those 60.”

Most Senate Republicans were lined up in opposition to the debt limit extension. “Debt is not the friend of the American public and we should resist it,” Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky told Insider.

The debt ceiling is the statutory cap on how much the government can borrow to repay its bills. Suspending the limit gives the US more time to pay its bills for pandemic stimulus and other key aid programs from the last two years. If Congress fails to raise the limit, the government can default on its debt and plunge the US into a new economic crisis.

Thursday’s deal essentially kicks the can down the road, leaving Congress where it started heading into the holiday season. Democrats are still reluctant to use the time-consuming reconciliation process to lift the limit on their own. And McConnell was adamant on Wednesday that Republicans won’t offer any more support.

“This will moot Democrats’ excuses about the time crunch they created and give the unified Democratic government more than enough time to pass standalone debt limit legislation through reconciliation,” he said in a statement.

Senate Republicans had maintained that Democrats must unilaterally raise the debt ceiling, arguing the GOP wants no part in financing the $3.5 trillion social spending plan. But Democrats argued that raising the ceiling is a bipartisan responsibility. Doing so would cover debt incurred from both the Trump and the Biden administrations, including President Donald Trump’s $900 billion stimulus package from last December.

Democrats ramped up the pressure on the GOP throughout the week. President Joe Biden lambasted Republicans for their obstruction on Monday, and spoke with business leaders on Wednesday about the harm of a potential government default.

“Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, they’re using their power to prevent us from doing our job of saving the economy from a catastrophic event,” Biden said during the Monday press conference. “I think, quite frankly, it’s hypocritical, dangerous, and disgraceful.”

Brace for December deadlines

The GOP started to blinked on Wednesday as Democrats explored several options for raising the ceiling on their own. One solution to emerge was a one-time change to the filibuster that would let Democrats raise the limit with a party-line vote. Biden floated blowing a hole in the filibuster on Tuesday, telling reporters it was “a real possibility” to avoid a federal default.

It may very well have forced McConnell’s hand. “It’s not an insignificant part of the calculation, I’m quite sure,” Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told Insider in an interview.

The minority leader has long warned that eliminating or weakening the filibuster would plunge the Senate into chaos. Moderate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema were strongly opposed to any filibuster changes, but pressure on them to reverse course would likely intensify as the country hurtled toward the October 18 deadline.

While the deal only delays an inevitable debt-ceiling battle until the winter, it also staves off a horrific economic threat. Failure to raise the ceiling would be calamitous. Government funding would quickly freeze for Social Security beneficiaries, members of the armed services, and public workers. The country would slide into a recession and lose nearly 6 million jobs, Moody’s Analytics estimated. American household wealth would plummet by $15 trillion as fears of a government default could tank stocks.

Hitting the ceiling would also be disastrous for the country’s global strength. The US dollar serves as the world’s reserve currency, and its power relies on trust in the government to pay its debt.

Nothing would be “more harmful” to the currency than a default, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned September 27. The dollar would quickly lose its relevance, interest rates would shoot higher, and Americans’ payments on everything from credit-card bills to home loans would soar, she added.

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