President Joe Biden on Thursday confirmed that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) stood in the way of raising taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans as a way to pay for his programs to expand the social safety net and fight climate change.
“She’s smart as the devil,” Biden said at a CNN town hall in Maryland. “She’s very supportive of the environmental agenda in my legislation…. Where she’s not supportive is she says she will not raise a single penny on taxes for the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period. And that’s where it sort of breaks down.”
Democrats had planned to increase the top individual and corporate tax rates, partially reversing changes Republicans made in their 2017 tax law. Those changes would help pay for things like universal pre-kindergarten, paid family leave, child care subsidies, elder and disability care and affordable housing as part of Biden’s Build Back Better package.
Sinema’s opposition to changing those rates has left Democrats searching for other ways to raise revenue to help cover the cost of the bill. The Arizona Democrat is reportedly supportive of other tax schemes, including a levy on corporate stock buybacks and an annual tax on tradable assets owned by billionaires.
Biden expressed confidence Democrats would ultimately be able to find a way to offset the cost of his agenda and pass it into law. He needs all 50 Senate Democrats to vote for the bill in order to pass it under the budget reconciliation process, which will allow them to avoid a GOP filibuster.
“We’re down to four or five issues, which I’m not going to negotiate on national television,” BIden said.
Biden on Thursday also confirmed the opposition of Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to programs he has proposed for free community college and an expansion of Medicare to include coverage of vision and dental care and for hearing aids.
Acknowledging the political reality that is limiting the breadth of his agenda in the Senate, Biden said, “When you have 50 Democrats, every one is the president.”