Kyrsten Sinema Gets to Yes: Democrats Are on the Verge of Passing Historic Climate Action

When Joe Manchin announced a surprise deal with the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last week paving the way for a climate and tax reconciliation package, one big hurdle stood in the way of a Democratic celebration: Would Kyrsten Sinema support the party-line bill her fellow holdout had negotiated? For days, she remained silent, declining to say whether or not she would join the rest of her party in backing the Inflation Reduction Act, and at times inspiring little hope that she would. But on Thursday night, after a day of negotiations, she got on board, potentially clearing a path for Democrats to enact to pass the largest-ever investment in renewable energy. “Subject to the Parliamentarian’s review,” the Arizona Democrat said in a brief statement Thursday evening, “I’ll move forward.”

Her support comes with some caveats, of course: In addition to the procedural concerns, she noted in her statement that the agreement she struck involved removing the bill’s carried tax provision—which had been a sticking point for Sinema and the corporate interests she’s close to . But Democrats believe the revenue from the carried tax provision will be made up for with a new tax on stock buybacks Sinema agreed to, and Schumer said in a statement Thursday that the final package “preserves the major components” of his earlier deal with Manchin. Not all the details of the agreement with Sinema were immediately clear, but it appears to be a significant piece of legislation—and a long-sought win for President Joe Biden and the Democrats, whose domestic agenda had been stalled by Manchin, Sinema, and a Republican blockade for more than a year.

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“I look forward to the Senate taking up this legislation and passing it as soon as possible,” Biden said in a Thursday night statement, praising the plan as a “critical step” toward easing inflation, lowering prescription drug and healthcare costs, reducing the deficit, improving the tax system, and combating climate change. As the New York Times recently noted, the legislation is the “most ambitious climate bill in United States history.”

The original deal between Manchin and Schumer—a scaled-back version of Biden’s signature Build Back Better plan, which has been something of a white whale for the president in this 50-50 Senate—included $369 billion in climate and energy spending and $300 billion in deficit reduction measures. Those investments will carry over into the final bill, Democrats familiar with the negotiations told CNN. But it remains to be seen what, exactly, the package will ultimately look like when the smoke clears: As CNN reported, the compromise may reflect some of the concerns Sinema raised after consulting with business groups. “Is this written in a way that’s bad?” Arizona Chamber of Commerce President Danny Seiden recounted the senator asking. (Drugmakers have also mobilized against the bill: “Those members who vote for this bill will not get a free pass,” Steve Ubl, head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, threatened Democrats in a letter Thursday. “We’ll do whatever we can to hold them accountable.”)

But Democrats, including progressives, cheered the breakthrough, urging its passage when it was introduced this weekend. “It’s not everything we wanted, but it’s the start of what we need,” Senator Ed Markey said Thursday. “This is our moment to deliver for the American people.”

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