[guest post by JVW]
Kyrsten Sinema, the influential moderate Democratic senator from Arizona, did not commit to voting for President Joe Biden’s sweeping social safety net legislation in a sit-down interview with CNN on Thursday, the latest sign that Senate Democrats do not yet have the votes to pass one of the party’s top legislative priorities even as leadership hopes to approve the measure before Christmas.
Sinema indicated she plans to continue negotiating over the bill. Asked if she is prepared to vote “yes” when the legislation, known as the Build Back Better Act, comes to the Senate floor, Sinema would not say.
“I am always prepared to vote and to vote for what’s right for the interests of Arizona,” she said.
Point of order here, CNN: It seems you asked if she were prepared to vote “yes” and the way I read her response is that she is prepared to vote “yes” and she is prepared to vote “no,” depending upon what the final negotiations yield. Just because you asked her a question in a really stupid manner doesn’t mean that she failed to answer it.
In any case, when CNN pressed her for details on what changes she wants to see in the final legislation, she declined the opportunity to grandstand, replying “When you negotiate directly in good faith with your colleagues and don’t negotiate publicly, you’re actually much more likely to find that agreement and get to an achievement that serves the interests of the people of your community [. . .].” This suggests that there are in fact some things she has in mind. Sen. Sinema had earlier rejected calls for raising corporate or personal income tax rates, but unlike her colleague Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another notorious Democrat holdout, she supports including money to expand Paid Family Leave in the final bill.
The Arizona Senator also addressed a real bugaboo of mine: the ridiculous promises that are made in social spending legislation which never come close to being kept. Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a great example of this: nearly a trillion dollars spent with the promise that unemployment would be held under six percent and that the economy would grow at an annual rate of three percent by the end of President Obama’s first time, neither of which came anywhere close to coming to fruition. Hoping to avoid a repeat of the mistakes which helped disoriented and disheartened Republicans mount a strong comeback, Sen. Sinema vowed:
I would never promise something to the American people that I can’t deliver and I think it’s not responsible for elected leaders to do that. Being honest is the most appropriate way to engage in any interaction, whether it’s in a political setting or in a personal setting, but I also believe that when elected leaders on either side of the political aisle promise things that cannot be delivered it actually exacerbates the political problems we face in our country.
Of course Democrats just call every new spending proposal an “investment” in the hopes that we are behave like sucker speculators dreaming of a massive payoff that will never come. I appreciate the Senator’s candor in recognizing that.
Nothing that Kyrsten Sinema told CNN necessarily closes the door on her ultimately bestowing a key “yes” vote on the floundering Biden Administration, but she strikes me as someone who is principled and serious and isn’t about to roll-over and play party loyalist. (I probably just ensured it will in fact come to pass just by typing that sentence. Oh well.) With Joe Manchin clearly noticing that the new $1.9 trillion price tag exceeds by over 25% the $1.5 trillion ceiling that he committed to this past summer, I would venture to guess that Dem leadership is going to have to do some serious capitulating if they want to find those magic 50 votes.