Sen. Sinema spokesman: ‘We do not negotiate through the press’
PHOENIX – U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, taking heat from Democratic colleagues for not backing President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan, said reports saying she hasn’t been forthright during negotiations to shrink the package are not accurate.
Her office issued a statement Thursday regarding her stance and how she’s been working with the White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
“Sen. Sinema said publicly more than two months ago, before Senate passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, that she would not support a bill costing $3.5 trillion,” John LaBombard, Sinema’s communications director, said in the statement.
“In August, she shared detailed concerns and priorities, including dollar figures, directly with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and the White House. Claims that the senator has not detailed her views to President Biden and Sen. Schumer are false.”
Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia are in the spotlight as the only Senate Democrats opposing the proposed budget reconciliation bill. They have been at the White House on multiple occasions this week negotiating to reduce the cost, but they have infuriated colleagues by not making their counterproposals public.
LaBombard responded to the critics.
“While we do not negotiate through the press – because Sen. Sinema respects the integrity of those direct negotiations – she continues to engage directly in good-faith discussions with both President Biden and Sen. Schumer to find common ground,” he said.
Biden insists the price tag actually will be zero because the expansion of government programs would be largely paid for with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — businesses earning more than $5 million a year, and individuals earning more than $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for couples.
Manchin appears to have fewer questions about the revenue side of the equation — the higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy — than the spending plans and particular policies, especially those related to climate change that are important to his coal-centric state. He also wants any expansion of aid programs to Americans to be based on income needs, not simply for everyone.
Though Sinema is less publicly open in her views, she focuses her questions on the menu of tax options, including the increased corporate rate that some in the business community argue could make the U.S. less competitive overseas and the individual rate that others warn could snare small business owners.
With a 50-50 Senate seat split and holding the tie-breaker in Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats don’t have any votes to spare if, as expected, they don’t get any Republican support.
Sinema, who was elected to her first six-year term in 2018, has been threatened with censure from the Arizona Democratic Party for her stance on the reconciliation package as well as her opposition to filibuster reform needed to pass voting rights legislation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.