The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Sinema Endorses Biden Spending Bill - Will Other Changes Follow?

Senator Kyrsten Sinema

Kyrsten Sinema has agreed to a deal on legislation that addresses climate change and health care after having been the lone Democratic U.S. senator who didn’t support it.

The Arizona senator announced Thursday that she was ready to “move forward” with President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which “would represent the largest investment in energy and climate programs in US history, extend expiring health care subsidies for three years and give Medicare the power for the first time to negotiate prescription drug prices,” CNN reports. It would be funded by new corporate taxes, and Sinema came around after some of the tax provisions were adjusted.

Sinema is the only out bisexual U.S. senator but has disappointed many LGBTQ+ and liberal Americans by turning out to be one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate. She and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia have often been the only Democratic senators failing to get behind certain progressive bills.

Her endorsement of the Inflation Reduction Act means the Senate can probably pass it over the weekend and send it to the House, which has a Democratic majority. The Senate is divided 50-50 between Democrats, including the two independents who caucus with them, and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote.

There is one more thing that must happen before a Senate vote, however. Elizabeth McDonough, the Senate’s parliamentarian, would have to certify that the legislation meets the requirements for bypassing the filibuster. The filibuster process means that 60 senators have to agree to end debate on a bill and move to a vote on the bill itself. Certain bills are exempt from the filibuster.

The Senate can get rid of the filibuster, but Sinema and Manchin have resisted doing this. Ending the filibuster would make it much each to pass measures supported by Democrats, including LGBTQ+ rights legislation such as the Equality Act and the Respect for Marriage Act. Sinema supports the bills themselves but does not support lifting the filibuster to help the bills move along.

Sinema defended her support for the filibuster in a Washington Post commentary piece last year. The Democrats have not always held a majority in the Senate, she said, and when they’ve been in the minority, the filibuster has helped block Republican-backed legislation. Overall, she wrote, it has forced bipartisan cooperation. “The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles,” she said.

The Advocate has requested comment from Sinema on whether she might have changed her mind on the filibuster and will update this story if we receive a response.

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