Sinema opposes the $ 3.5 trillion price tag of the Democrats’ sweeping social safety net bill

WASHINGTON – Senator Kyrsten Sinema said on Wednesday she was not supporting a $ 3.5 trillion price tag for a major spending bill Democrats are trying to push through based on party line, a position that will force probably the White House to reduce its ambitions.

“I told Senate leaders and President Biden that I supported many of the goals of this proposal to continue to create jobs, increase American competitiveness, and expand economic opportunities for the people of Arizona. I also made it clear that while I would support starting this process, I am not supporting a bill that costs $ 3.5 trillion, ”the Arizona Democrat said in a statement.

She added that “In the months to come, I will be working in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration to strengthen the Arizona economy and help the everyday families of Arizona go. forward “.

Sinema’s statement suggests that she will vote in favor of the budget resolution to start the process and ask committees to craft legislation that can only be passed with Democratic votes. In the equally divided Senate, all 50 Democratic members will have to pass.

The reconciliation bill, which can escape the 60-vote threshold for obstruction, is a centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s agenda. Democrats hope to expand health care funding, subsidize community colleges, fund climate change measures, and provide care for the elderly and children.

It’s the only viable way to pass Biden’s proposed tax hikes on those earning $ 400,000 and businesses, as part of his efforts to fund his broader safety net and reduce income inequality. Republicans are strongly opposed to any tax increase.

Sinema’s statement came the same day she helped secure a bipartisan infrastructure deal worth $ 550 billion in new spending with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio and other senators. She had met Biden a day earlier in the White House.

Republican No.2 Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said Sinema’s statement could make it easier for GOP senators to vote for the infrastructure deal.

“I think it helps,” he told reporters. “It helps if our members think that supporting this bipartisan package means that the overall cost of debt, taxes and everything in between will ultimately be lower.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Applauded Sinema’s statement, telling Fox Business: “I was certainly delighted. She’s very brave.”

But Sinema’s statement, first reported by the Republic of Arizona, drew immediate criticism from some progressives, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., who considers $ 3.5 trillion in dollars. dollars as a compromise.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., has said he wants to pass the infrastructure measure and budget resolution before the chamber leaves for a scheduled recess in August. The final bill is expected to be considered after the Senate returns in September.

Leigh Ann Caldwell, Julie tsirkin and Frank Thorp V contributed.

Richard L. Militello