WASHINGTON — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, announced Thursday night that she would support the advancement of her party’s climate, tax and health care packages and pave the way for a key part of President Biden’s domestic policy agenda to reach the Senate in the Senate may happen in the coming days.
In a bid to win Ms Sinema’s support, Democratic leaders agreed to drop a $14 billion tax hike on some wealthy hedge fund managers and private equity executives she had opposed, who Change structure of minimum 15 percent corporate tax and include drought rulers to benefit Arizona.
Ms Sinema said she was ready to proceed with the package, provided the Senate top rules official gives it the go-ahead.
Ms Sinema had been the latest to hold out on the package after West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III last week struck a deal with leading Democrats reviving a plan that appeared to have collapsed.
It brought Democrats one step closer to passing the package and salvaging important parts of their domestic political agenda, starting with a series of votes this weekend. It came just over a week after Mr. Manchin and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Majority Leader, stunned their peers with an agreement to include in legislation hundreds of billions of dollars for climate and energy programs and tax increases, along with a proposal to cut them prescription drug prices and extending health insurance subsidies.
With Republicans united in opposition, the measure needs the unanimous support of Democrats to move forward in the 50-50 Senate, leaving the party unable to afford even a defection.
Mr. Schumer confirmed in a statement that he had reached an agreement “which I believe will have the support of the entire Senate Democratic conference.” He said the revised legislation would be published on Saturday.
“The agreement preserves the main elements of the Inflation Reduction Act, including lowering the cost of prescription drugs, tackling climate change, closing tax loopholes exploited by big corporations and the wealthy, and reducing the deficit,” he said. The deal will “take us one step closer to implementing this historic legislation.”
Mr. Biden urged the Senate to pass the measure quickly, hailing the deal as “another critical step in bringing down inflation and the cost of living for America’s families.”
Ms Sinema insisted on removing a provision that would have restricted the preferential tax treatment of income for some wealthy hedge fund managers and private equity managers. Democrats instead added a new 1 percent excise tax that companies would have to pay on the amount of stock they buy back, said a Democrat official, who disclosed details of the plan on condition of anonymity.
That provision, the official said, would ensure the package still reduces the federal deficit by up to $300 billion, the same amount Democrats were aiming for in the original deal and a key priority for Mr. Manchin.
Democrats also approved a motion by Ms. Sinema to allocate billions of dollars to fight droughts, according to officials briefed on the new plan, something crucial for Arizona as it suffers from a devastating mega-drought. They were expected to restructure the 15 percent minimum corporate tax to make it less onerous on manufacturers. Earlier this week, Arizona business leaders appealed directly to Ms. Sinema to simplify that proposal, which was included in part because she opposed raising tax rates as part of the plan.
“Manufacturers remain concerned that this law will stifle new cures and therapies,” said Jay Timmons, president and executive director of the National Association of Manufacturers on twitter, even if the elimination of certain tax rules is praised. He added: “We remain skeptical and will carefully review the revised legislation.”
While most Democrats were quick to heed the deal Mr. Manchin reached with Mr. Schumer when it was announced last week, Ms. Sinema had refused to interfere, privately signaling that changes, particularly to the tax proposals, her vote wins.
Even when she fought an unusually non-partisan lead on Thursday a judge she assisted for the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit – Ensuring the support of nearly 20 Republicans – Ms Sinema was lobbied from both sides of the aisle. At one point she and Mr. Manchin huddled together in the closet and conversed in hushed tones.
Ms. Sinema, an enigmatic centrist, had already forced her party to abandon plans to revise much of the tax legislation, and her characteristic silence frustrated Democrats eager to pass the bill. After hearing that she had supported the bill, several Democratic senators and advisers celebrated, confident that final passage was within reach.
“We are about to pass a hugely needed and popular law,” said Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, adding, “It’s happening.”
Mr Schumer said he plans to hold a test vote on the measure on Saturday afternoon to keep the Senate from going into a planned five-week August recess to complete work on the legislation.
The package still has a number of hurdles to clear before the Senate can pass it. As Democrats use the arcane budget-voting process to protect the measure from filibustering, it must be blessed by the Senate lawmaker to ensure its elements adhere to the strict rules governing the process. This process is expected to continue on Friday and could lead to further changes to the measure if certain parts are deemed out of order.
Leaving room to change course should those changes raise concerns, Ms Sinema said she would proceed with the bill “subject to parliamentarian review”.
Republicans have an opportunity this weekend to attempt to force changes ahead of the bill’s final passage during a marathon series of amendment votes known as vote-a-rama. If all Republicans are in attendance, all 50 senators working with Democrats must remain united to protect the legislation as written.
In her statement, Ms. Sinema said she will work with Senator Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat, on separate legislation to address preferential tax treatment for hedge fund earnings, sometimes referred to as the carried-interest loophole. She said they would focus on “protecting investments in America’s economy and fostering continued growth while closing the most egregious loopholes that some abuse to avoid paying taxes.”
But doing so outside of a reconciliation bill would require 60 votes to overcome an almost certain Republican filibuster, and it’s unlikely enough GOP senators would join the effort to make it happen.
Alan Rapport contributed reporting.