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Sen. Sinema opposes Democrats' $3.5 trillion price tag for spending bill

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has upset the Democratic Party's plans to pass a $3.5 trillion spending bill that contains major components of President Joe Biden's progressive agenda, telling the Arizona Republic on Wednesday that she doesn't support the plan's price tag.

Sinema said she has reviewed the Senate Budget Committee's framework for the budget reconciliation package and told the president and Democratic leaders that she supports their goals of economic growth.

"I have also made clear that while I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion — and in the coming months, I will work in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration to strengthen Arizona's economy and help Arizona's everyday families get ahead," Sinema said in a statement.

Her opposition to the $3.5 trillion package puts Senate Democrats in a bind. With a slim 50-50 majority, Democrats cannot afford to have moderates like Sinema or Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) defect from any major vote. They need all 50 Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking support to pass Biden's so-called "human infrastructure" priorities, which include expanding Medicare, free community college tuition, national paid family leave, extending Biden's revamped child tax credits, and various climate change policies watered down from the Green New Deal.

Democrats intended to have this $3.5 trillion advance along with a bipartisan agreement for a $1.2 trillion "hard infrastructure" package, which would provide funding for roads, bridges, and other projects traditionally associated with infrastructure spending.

Sinema has been working with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to put together a deal that will win support from 10 Senate Republicans, providing the Senate with the necessary 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and pass compromise legislation. The White House wants a bipartisan deal very badly, as Biden had promised unity and bipartisan compromise would be key features of his presidency.

On Wednesday, Sinema met with the president to report on the progress she's made negotiating with Republicans on issues like funding for transit, broadband, and water systems. Senate Democrats believe they have a compromise that will overcome a filibuster attempt, the New York Times and Politico reported.

"While bringing both parties together can seem impossible these days, Arizonans elected me to do the hard work," she told the Arizona Republic. "Our historic legislation would make the strongest investment in America's critical infrastructure in a century — creating Arizona jobs, expanding economic opportunities for our state, securing our water future, and protecting our communities from wildfires."

However, progressive Democrats want the Biden administration to swing for the fences on progressive priorities and ignore Republicans entirely. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has vowed that the House will not bring a bipartisan infrastructure deal up for a vote unless the Senate also passes the $3.5 trillion Democratic bill, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) must force through the Senate using a process called budget reconciliation to pass it without GOP support.

She told reporters Wednesday that her position hasn't changed.

Sinema's opposition to the $3.5 trillion price tag of the reconciliation bill means Democrats will have to cut spending from the package to win her support and move it through the Senate. If they don't pass the reconciliation bill, Pelosi will ensure that the bipartisan infrastructure bill dies in the House.

Still, there's no guarantee Pelosi will allow a watered-down reconciliation bill to have vote on the House floor either. She may instead support the progressives in her conference, who are furious with Sinema and unwilling to compromise on the reconciliation package.

"We didn't elect Sinema as President and we won't let her obstruction put a Republican in the Oval Office in 2024. It's the reconciliation bill or GOP controlling every level of government again, period," said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

One of two things will happen: Either pressure from progressives will cause Sinema to cave and support the full $3.5 trillion bill, or Biden will have to persuade Pelosi to take the best offer the House will get from Senate, else infrastructure will go nowhere.

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