Kyrsten Sinema threatened to torpedo Biden’s social spending plan if Pelosi didn’t hurry up and pass the infrastructure bill, report says

Kyrsten Sinema
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema arrived for a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee markup in the Dirksen Building on October 6. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images
  • Sinema threatened to quash Biden’s plan if Pelosi didn’t speed up on infrastructure, the NYT said.
  • Pelosi canceled a planned vote on infrastructure in September because of progressive resistance.
  • Sinema is one of two wild-card Democratic votes on a spending bill carrying much of Biden’s agenda.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona threatened to sink a key part of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda if the House didn’t approve the stalled-out infrastructure package, said a New York Times report published on Sunday.

The Times reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi set up a back channel in September with Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a pair of centrists with outsize sway over Biden’s economic agenda. Democrats can’t lose either of their votes for the spending plan to become law in the 50-50 Senate.

The paper reported that Sinema signaled in late September — through a friend, former Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts — that she would pull her support of the larger social spending, health, and climate plan if Pelosi didn’t act swiftly to pass the infrastructure plan.

At the same time, progressives were refusing to vote on the infrastructure bill without the social spending plan. This stalemate prompted Pelosi to yank a vote scheduled for September 30.

Sinema’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The infrastructure plan focused on roads and bridges eventually cleared the House with some GOP support earlier this month, with Biden signing it into law last week. House Democrats approved the Build Back Better Act on Friday morning on a party-line vote, barreling past united GOP opposition.

That measure would establish universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds and extend monthly cash payments to most American families for another year. It would expand Medicare to cover hearing services, enact four weeks of paid family and medical leave, initiate federal control over prescription-drug prices, and provide child-care subsidies. Democrats want to pay for it with tax increases on the richest Americans and large firms.

The legislation is now headed to the Senate, with the prospect of more showdowns over taxes, paid leave, and the planned Medicare expansion. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wanted Senate Democrats to pass it by Christmas.

Neither Sinema nor Manchin has given the package a thumbs-up, and Manchin said he didn’t see any urgency in approving the social spending bill by year’s end.