Two centrist Democrats in the Senate have balked at the price tag of Democrats’ ambitious $3.5 trillion social policy and climate change bill. Here’s a look at the two lawmakers and how they have so far been wielding the power of their must-have votes, even as President Biden tries to win their support for his agenda.
Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona
Ms. Sinema, a onetime school social worker and Green Party-aligned activist, vaulted through the ranks of Arizona politics by running as a zealous bipartisan willing to break with her fellow Democrats. She counts John McCain, the Republican senator who died in 2018, as a hero, and has found support from independent voters and moderate suburban women in a state where Maverick is practically its own party.
But now, Ms. Sinema is facing a growing political revolt at home from the voters who once counted themselves among her most devoted supporters. Many of the state’s most fervent Democrats now see her as an obstructionist whose refusal to sign on to the sweeping bill has helped imperil the party’s agenda.
Ms. Sinema has been enigmatic about her concerns with key elements of the agenda and has largely declined to issue public comments.
On Wednesday afternoon, she and a team from the White House huddled in her office for more than two hours on another day of what a spokesman for Ms. Sinema called good-faith negotiations.
A breakthrough on the legislation could quell much of the criticism and burnish Ms. Sinema’s image as a deal-maker who shepherded a related bipartisan infrastructure bill through the Senate. But liberals on Capitol Hill do not trust that she is actually willing to support the broader spending package.
Joe Manchin III of West Virginia
In a lengthy and scathing statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Manchin reiterated his opposition to the proposal as currently constituted, saying it amounted to “fiscal insanity.”
“While I am hopeful that common ground can be found that would result in another historic investment in our nation, I cannot — and will not — support trillions in spending or an all-or-nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces,” Mr. Manchin wrote, denouncing an approach that he said would “vengefully tax for the sake of wishful spending.”
He said he wanted to set income thresholds for many of the social program expansions Democrats have proposed, and suggested he would be open to undoing some components of the 2017 tax law.
A former high school quarterback who friends say still relishes being at the center of the action, Mr. Manchin, 73, is something of a unicorn in today’s Congress. As a pro-coal and anti-abortion Democrat, he reflects a less-homogenized era when regionalism was as significant as partisanship and senators were more individual actors than predictable votes for their caucus.
And unlike Sinema, because of his state’s conservative bent, Mr. Manchin is less likely than many Democrats to pay a political price for opposing Mr. Biden’s agenda.
He’s the only lawmaker standing in the way of an all-Republican congressional delegation in West Virginia, a state that former President Donald J. Trump carried by nearly 40 points last year.