Are Sinema and Manchin Going to Pocket Veto Biden’s Legislative Agenda?

Left: Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 27, 2021. Right: Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., December 4, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Are Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin distancing themselves from the gargantuan reconciliation bill that the Democratic party is still, for some reason, trying so desperately to pass? It certainly seems possible.

The Arizona Republic reports that:

Next Sinema will turn her attention to ensuring the money, which includes $550 billion of new funding, is spent and that the money flows quickly to entities across the U.S., she said Monday in a call with Arizona reporters.

Some projects could begin in the next couple of months.

After the holidays, Sinema said she anticipates employing the same bipartisan across-the-aisle approach with the “Gang of 10” senators to move on other key issues, from immigration reform to hiking the federal minimum wage.

The group has met several times to discuss its next round of bipartisan work, she said.

Sinema said she is unmoved by criticism by the left wing of the Democratic Party and some moderates who have blasted her demand to scale back the budget reconciliation bill and threatened to recruit primary challengers to run against her in 2024.

This certainly doesn’t mean that Sinema is a thumbs-down on reconciliation. Indeed, the piece notes that she continues to work on the project. But it’s also not a ringing endorsement, and it validates the suspicion that, if the bill were magically to disappear, Sinema would lose no sleep whatsoever.

Joe Manchin, meanwhile, is beginning to make all sorts of noises about the perils of inflation. Yesterday, Axios suggested that:

Red-hot inflation data validates the instinct of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to punt President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda until next year — potentially killing a quick deal on the $1.75 trillion package, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Moreover, like Sinema, Manchin seems to be more interested in other things:

  • With a limited number of legislative days left in the year, Manchin is content to focus on the issues that need to be addressed, Axios is told.
  • They include funding the government, raising the debt ceiling and passing the National Defense Authorization Act.

Whatever understanding exists between Representative Jayapal and her party’s more moderate House members obviously does not apply to the Senate, where Sinema has repeatedly declined to commit to doing a reconciliation bill at all, and Manchin has made it clear that, while he’d like to help, he is also willing to walk away. It is tough to tell, and it will likely remain that way for a while. But if you look at the tea leaves, it’s not hard to construct a case that, while they’re not implacably opposed to Biden’s agenda, Senator Sinema and Manchin just aren’t that into it, either.