Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Wednesday said she will not support President Biden’s $3.5 trillion package of social welfare spending because of the enormous price tag.
Her defection dealt a potentially lethal blow to Democrats’ hopes of forcing the bill through in a party-line vote.
“I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion — and in the coming months, I will work in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration to strengthen Arizona’s economy and help Arizona’s everyday families get ahead,” Ms. Sinema, Arizona Democrat, said in a statement.
Senate Democrats plan to pass the $3.5 trillion package of health care, climate change and anti-poverty programs through a procedure called budget reconciliation, which would bypass the 60-vote threshold most legislation must clear to survive a filibuster and pass on a simple 51-vote majority. To do that, Democrats likely need the support of all of the chamber’s 50 Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris casting the 51st vote.
If Ms. Sinema holds out, it almost certainly dooms the bill which represents the bulk of Mr. Biden‘s agenda.
The Washington Times contacted several Senate Democrats about Ms. Sinema’s decision but they refused to comment, saying they needed to more closely study her statement.
On the other side of the Capitol, two members of the far-left “Squad” reacted with anger.
“Sinema seems not to care that her own state is flooding, the west is burning, and infrastructure around the country is crumbling,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat, said on Twitter. “Sinema is more interested in gaining GOP friends and blocking much needed resources, than fighting for her residents’ future.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, tweeted: “Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure.”
While backing off the reconciliation bill, Ms. Sinema remained supportive of the deal for a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill. She has been a key member of the bipartisan negotiating team working on the infrastructure deal, which includes spending on transportation, water and broadband projects.
She told the Arizona Republic that she will support a test vote on the infrastructure bill that was expected as early as Wednesday night.
The $3.5 trillion bill was expected to include a smorgasbord of liberal priorities including climate measures, granting DACA immigrants a path toward citizenship, expanding Medicaid in states that refused to do so, and a variety of proposals giving subsidies to minorities and the poor.
It’s a top priority for Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats.
Ms. Sinema’s announcement could force Democrats to scale back what they want to do, and will certainly set off a fight between her and the party’s left-wing.
The announcement also could have ramifications for the bipartisan package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, reiterated on Wednesday that her chamber will not take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill until the Senate also passes the massive package of social welfare or what the administration calls “human infrastructure.”
Mrs. Pelosi did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Ms. Sinema’s statement.
• Mica Soellner contributed to this report.