With Democrats pleading for a deal on their social safety net bill, one of the holdouts, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, departed Washington on Friday, Oct. 1 to head home for a doctor's appointment. On Oct. 2 she is scheduled to attend a political retreat and fundraiser with donors at a resort and spa in Phoenix, according to sources.
Fellow Democrats are already feeling frustration toward the senator as President Biden and congressional Democratic leaders are trying to work out an agreement on a climate change and social policy so that the bill can pass with the votes of every Senate Democrat and virtually every House Democrat.
Sen. Sinema’s return to Arizona reads as her potential intent to walk away from supporting the $3.5 trillion budget bill. But fellow Democrats have been left guessing on where the triathlete actually stands.
President Biden and his top aides met her four times over the course of a day this week without much progress.
Sinema on Thursday tweeted a statement saying, "Claims that the Senator has not detailed her views to President Biden and Senator [Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer are false" and they "are fully aware of Senator Sinema's priorities, concerns and ideas."
Sinema, 45, is the first openly bisexual member of Congress, but she has more in common with fiscal conservatives and some Republicans than most of her Democrat colleagues. She's not an orthodox politician, either, spending enormous focus on her athletic ambitions — she broke her foot this summer participating in the "Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon."
What is slowing Sinema down on the bill? Sources say she's reluctant to support any increase in the corporate tax rate, or at least less than Biden's proposed 28%. She's also opposed Biden’s headline 39.6% tax rate on capital gains.
She does back Biden’s spending plans to help poor families, including the expanded Child Tax Credit, affordable childcare, and free preschool. She's committed to bolstering the Affordable Care Act, and providing coverage for Medicare recipients. And addressing climate change is a clear priority for Sinema, potentially putting her at odds with her fellow holdout Joe Manchin.
Observers worry that if Sinema doesn't get every detail amended to her demands, she'll simply vote no.