A Manchin-Sinema Tax Showdown In The Works?

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 16: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Your intermittent briefing on the reconciliation negotiations that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) largely killed is now at least briefly back for an update. What can I say — it’s Manchin’s world, we’re just living in it.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Monday pitted himself against his staunchest ally so far on all things stymying Democrats’ hopes and dreams: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). 

If you cast your mind back to the reconciliation negotiations, you’ll remember that a particularly fun obstacle for Democrats to try to navigate was that Manchin and Sinema each had different and distinct dealbreakers in the package 

One of Sinema’s was refusal to hike taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Manchin, on the other hand, is all for tax reform. One of the only things he’ll say concretely is that he dislikes and wants to undo former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts. 

“Why can’t we just get a good solid tax plan that works?” Manchin asked the Wall Street Journal in an article published Monday. “That’s the first thing to do.”

The primary stumbling block for Democrats’ tax proposals last fall was Sinema. 

“I respect her and what her concerns may be, but I think basically our financial situation is getting worse, not better, so maybe we can take another look at it,” Manchin added of Sinema. “I would hope so.”

Manchin and Sinema have hobbled the party on this package in such a humiliating and high-visibility way that Democrats would take basically whatever Manchin will give them at this point. But a potential Manchin vs. Sinema showdown on taxes would be fascinating — especially since the senator from Arizona has not yet shown a proclivity for being out on a branch alone.

On top of that, she’d be siloed on an issue that is essentially a litmus test for Democrats — raising taxes, some way somehow, on the wealthy. While she probably has drawn one already (looking at you, Rep. Gallego), staking her political identity on refusal to raise taxes on the rich and corporations will almost assuredly draw a primary challenge.

Part of the Whittling Down 

  • The tax showdown could be part of a new plan White House aides have discussed, according to the Washington Post.
  • It would involve the White House crafting a package that is not just deficit neutral like the old plan, but actually deficit reductive — a Manchin hangup that helped him derail the initial package.  
  • While details are unclear, it could involve climate change proposals and health care initiatives. The tax hikes would recoup the money spent, and then some.
  • Manchin would have to get on board, and even a plan tailored to his priorities is no guarantee that he will. And of course, Sinema is a potential opponent to the tax hikes. 
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