Sinema made big deals with the Republicans. Can she do one with her own party?

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the centrist Arizona Democrat, has spent the past 12 months striking big deals with Republicans on issues like infrastructure and gun reform.

Now House and Senate Democrats, desperate for a historic victory on climate, health care and taxes ahead of the midterms, are hoping she’s ready to strike a deal with her own party.

In recent days, the contours of a possible agreement with Sinema have gradually become apparent. She has long opposed a provision in the deal Manchin cut with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: closing the so-called carried interest tax loophole, which helps wealthy private equity and hedge fund managers pay lower taxes.

Sinema is also planning changes to the 15% minimum corporate tax rate, three well-known sources told NBC News. Manufacturers large and small say the proposed change could hurt their businesses as they rely on the existing structure of taxable asset depreciation to offset the cost of equipment and factory space. Corporate tax was the bulk of a 20-minute Zoom call Tuesday with Sinema and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

The senator made no promises and drew no red lines, a source on the call said. She told the chamber she would try to “improve” the bill, according to the source, who said Sinema gave the impression she would not oppose the legislation if it were unchanged.


Additionally, Sinema is pushing for $5 billion for drought prevention, two sources said, an issue of major concern to Arizona.

No Democrat in the Senate pretends to know what Sinema is thinking, nor do they try to speak for her. Many said they had no comment on her on the bill and gave her, they hope, enough room to come to a yes.

“I don’t want to talk about Sen. Sinema,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who works with Democrats.

“I don’t do Sinema stuff,” added Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, although he added that Democrats are on track and passing major legislation this summer.

Getting the party’s other enigmatic moderate, Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., to sign the $739 billion reconciliation package was a major victory for Democrats, who all but abandoned a sweeping spending deal earlier this summer had. But with Democrats needing all 50 of their senators to get on board, now is the time for Sinema to comment on the legislation.

Senators will hold their first procedural vote on the Anti-Inflation Act on Saturday afternoon, with amendment votes expected later in the weekend. It is unclear whether changes proposed by Sinema would be incorporated before or during the change process. Schumer’s political director was spotted Thursday afternoon commuting between his office and Sinema’s hidden office in the Capitol basement, suggesting a deal may be in the works.

But any revisions Sinema seeks could weigh on the fragile Manchin-Schumer deal that almost all Democrats are poised to support. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan of neighboring New Mexico, along with other Western Democrats, said they would like to see some of the drought regulation Sinema wants for their states as well.

Other Democrats are campaigning to keep the carried-interest treatment rule in place, though they haven’t said removing that language would be a deal-breaker. The provision would generate $14 billion in revenue — a drop in the bucket compared to the broader package.

“I hope she considers supporting the Democrat position. Carried interest is a farce,” said Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the No. 2 Senate Democrat.

“There are some of the richest people in America – richest millionaires and billionaires – who are capitalizing on this gap. You don’t risk a single cent and get away with special tax treatment. That should be the end of it.”

Sinema did not comment on the package on Thursday; Her spokeswoman said the senator is waiting for the Senate Houseman to decide whether some elements of the package need to be removed before deciding whether to support moving the bill forward in Saturday’s vote.

But Sinema was an active fellow lobbyist on Thursday. She chatted with Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Todd Young of Indiana, Rob Portman of Ohio and other Senate Republicans as she whipped up the GOP’s support for a confirmation vote on one of her Arizona constituents, Roopali Desai, to serve as a federal appeals judge for the ninth district.

At one point, Sinema burst out of the Capitol doors yelling, “Has anyone seen Mitt?” She located Senator Mitt Romney and escorted him back to the Senate, where the Utah Republican voted yes to Desai’s nomination. Desai was confirmed 67-29 with 19 Republicans voting yes.

Sinema’s ability to work across the aisle has been demonstrated throughout the year. Earlier this summer, she and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., struck a major gun control agreement with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Thom Tillis, RN.C, and New York Grocery, following mass shootings at a Texas elementary school. And in August 2021, she and Portman led a bipartisan group of senators to reach agreement on a $550 billion infrastructure package that would fund the country’s roads, public transportation, water and broadband . Both bills became law.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who was part of Sinema’s infrastructure working group and has co-sponsored several bills with her, said she is now in the driver’s seat of the $739 billion reconciliation package.

“I’ve always found her to be honest, straightforward and looking for a solution. She’s fun to work with,” Moran said in an interview on Thursday. “You obviously need them to be successful. She is able and has the skills and strength to be a successful negotiator.”

Democrats who have worked and served for Sinema for years remain optimistic.

“I’m friends with Kyrsten Sinema. I respect Kyrsten Sinema. I think she’s a good person,” Lujan, who also served for Sinema in the House of Representatives, told NBC News. “She will push, as the senator proved. In the end I hope that we can all come together and have no amendments that are irksome to anyone in the group and we are able to complete this. It seems we are on that path.”

Back home in Arizona, Sinema faces the Heat from the left to support the spending package and will likely have to fend off a major challenge when her seat comes back to voters in 2024.

“This is behavior that we’ve had from Sen. Sinema in recent years — a lack of connection or conversations with constituents, her actions prioritizing special interests and people funding her campaign over the people of Arizona,” said Luis Ávila, a Community -Organizer in Phoenix working with Primary Sinema PAC.

Her relationship with state Democrats has soured since she gave a flippant thumbs down on a $15 minimum wage bill in the Senate last year. It deteriorated further after she rejected an amendment to the filibuster rule that would have helped pass a major voting rights bill.

Some Democrats, including a former Sinema employee who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity, believe cutting the new spending bill would dashed their reelection hopes. Emily Kirkland, a progressive strategist from Tempe, Arizona, agreed.

“I don’t think she’ll be able to get back into good standing with Democrats and independents if she doesn’t agree to this deal,” Kirkland said. It was “extremely frustrating and disappointing” for Sinema to threaten the bill to protect “a tax break for hedge fund managers.”

Scott Wong and Julie Tsirkin reported from Washington, DC and Sahil Kapur reported from Phoenix. Sinema made big deals with the Republicans. Can she do one with her own party?

Fry Electronics Team

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