“Sinema’s decision reflects a tradition of Arizona politics, where registered independents rival the state’s registered Republicans as the state’s largest voting group. The state is split nearly evenly into thirds among the two major parties and independents.
Based on initial exit polls, the makeup of this year’s electorate reflected some of this dynamic: Independents made up the largest group of voters in the Senate race, and they backed Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly by more than 15 points. Republicans, the next largest group, backed candidate Blake Masters by a smaller margin than they backed the 2020 election-denying gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.
Sinema has said that her decision to change parties is meant to reflect this dynamic: “I promised I would never bend to party pressure,” she wrote in her op-ed. “Arizonans — including many registered as Democrats or Republicans — are eager for leaders who focus on common-sense solutions rather than party doctrine. … It’s no wonder a growing number of Americans are registering as independents. In Arizona, that number often outpaces those registered with either national party.”
Arizona’s partisan breakdown isn’t expected to change dramatically before 2024, and Sinema’s decision makes the state’s upcoming Senate race wide-open. Sinema isn’t announcing a reelection effort yet, only saying that she does not plan to run for president. But if she does run, her move could work to her advantage.
She faced an uphill challenge by running as Democrat — she wasn’t leading in any hypothetical polling conducted in 2021 or 2022 when matched up against leading alternative Democratic candidates, like Rep. Gallego, Rep. Greg Stanton, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, or Tucson Mayor Regina Romero. Her favorability ratings remained low during the last year in both public and private Democratic polling from the Kelly campaign, according to a Democratic operative who was familiar with those results. Now, by unaffiliating herself with the state party, she could avoid what likely would have been a bruising primary contest that she would have lost.”
“Facing a potential primary challenge on her left from Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, Sinema stood a real chance of losing renomination if she sought reelection as a Democrat (she might’ve been in trouble against a more center-left Democrat, too, like Rep. Greg Stanton). Tellingly, Yoshinaka’s study found the prospect of facing a highly competitive primary in one’s own party can play into leaving that party.”
“if Sinema’s chances of winning a Democratic primary were mediocre at best, it’s unclear how much stronger her path would be as an independent. It’s hard to imagine Republicans deciding not to field a major candidate against Sinema even if she’s an independent, but it’s possible she is hoping that the potential complications of a three-way race discourage a high-profile Democrat like Gallego from running. In that scenario, perhaps Democrats line up behind her in a head-to-head race against a Republican.
However, Gallego has already responded to Sinema’s switch by sending out fundraising texts that say he’s considering a Senate run. Now, Sinema might be able to put together a mishmash coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents to win a three-way contest. After all, that Suffolk poll found that Republican likely voters also had a slightly more positive view of her than Democrats (35 percent favorable, 40 percent unfavorable), while independent likely voters had net-positive attitudes (42 percent favorable, 27 percent unfavorable). And she could attract plurality support if Democrats and Republicans nominate candidates who are viewed as too far left or right. That’s a possibility, too, as Gallego is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Arizona Republicans just nominated far-right contenders Blake Masters and Kari Lake in the 2022 Senate and gubernatorial races, respectively.
But Sinema could certainly also find herself running in last place. Yoshinaka’s study found party switchers suffer an electoral penalty in their first general election after switching, with an average decline of 4 to 9 percentage points in vote share. Having upset Democrats, Sinema might lose most of their support to the Democratic pick, and there’s no guarantee that many Republicans back her over their party’s nominee, even if that candidate is highly problematic.”
“The difficulties Sinema is likely to encounter speak to why senators rarely switch parties, and why it’s even more unusual for them to become — and stay — independent. Sinema is just the 10th senator since 1951 to formally switch parties while in office”
“Permitting is the process for getting federal approval for energy projects, including oil and gas pipelines, which often undergo extensive review for their environmental impact. It can be a long and expensive process, and while Republicans and Democrats agree that the experience could be improved, they differ on what those reforms should entail.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee who has deep ties to the coal industry, has long taken issue with the current permitting process, arguing that it’s too convoluted. This summer, he struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: In exchange for Manchin’s backing on the Inflation Reduction Act, Schumer guaranteed a vote on permitting reforms that would streamline approval of fossil fuel and renewable energy projects.”
“In a letter sent to both Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week, House lawmakers argue Manchin’s reforms would make it easier to greenlight harmful oil and gas projects, and reduce constituents’ abilities to oppose such endeavors. Additionally, they claim that attaching the policies to a must-pass bill would force lawmakers to choose between “protecting … communities from further pollution or funding the government.””
“Acutely aware of the need to get distance from the president, the four most endangered Democratic incumbents — Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan — are increasingly taking steps to highlight their independence from the president and underscore their differences.
Their public pushback against Biden’s plan to lift the Trump-era border restriction known as Title 42 is the most visible expression of the effort to get distance from the president. But the four Democrats are also finding other ways of signaling to voters. They’ve visited the border wall and blocked his nominees. A month before a Trump-appointed judge struck down Biden’s mask mandate on mass transit, three of the four voted in favor of a Republican bill to do just that.
On social media, where they shy away from praise of the president and instead focus on their efforts to prod the White House to action, it’s hard to tell they’ve voted in line with Biden no less than 96 percent of the time.
“In these four states, these are senators just doing the work, keeping their head down, getting things done for their states while the Republicans are obviously tearing each other apart in these primaries,” said Martha McKenna, a Democratic ad maker who previously worked for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
“They are not people who go looking for conflict, they’re not grandstanders. They’re hard working senators willing to say, ‘Yes, I agree with Biden on child tax credits or health care, but look, I’ve got an issue on this issue, or that issue.’””
“In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would link the two bills together, to prevent the party’s left from losing heart. “There ain’t going to be an infrastructure bill unless we have the reconciliation bill passed by the United States Senate,” Pelosi said Thursday.
This is an attempt to put the moderate Democrats in a box. It’s a promise from Pelosi to hold their cherished bipartisan deal hostage unless they fall in line with Biden’s reconciliation plan. It’s not clear whether this was necessary, since Manchin had already started speaking positively about the reconciliation effort. It also may be a bluff — if the reconciliation effort does fall apart, would Pelosi and House Democrats really choose doing nothing over settling for whatever got through the Senate? But Democrats hope the moderates will simply fall in line, so they don’t have to find out.”
“So far, Democrats and Republicans have made some headway on the bipartisan deal. They have agreed to a very vague framework that includes funding for roads and bridges, public transit, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicle infrastructure, clean drinking water, and broadband internet, among a few other areas. The agreement goes into almost no detail beyond those broad categories — with lawmakers now working to get more specific as they transform that framework into actual legislation.
Where both sides haven’t reached any agreement yet is how all of this will be paid for. Democrats want to pay for it largely by undoing parts of former President Donald Trump’s tax law, while Republicans suggested raising the gas tax and electric vehicle charging fees. With both sides rejecting each other’s ideas, they instead put out a list of potential revenue sources, ranging from stronger enforcement of current tax laws to spending caps to public-private partnerships. But the sides haven’t reached any concrete agreements here, and all of these ideas may not even be enough to fund the full bill.
Democrats have also promised to pass an additional infrastructure bill through reconciliation (to bypass the filibuster on a party-line vote). This bill would aim to fill in the other parts of Biden’s agenda left out of the bipartisan deal, including broader action on climate change and “human infrastructure” measures like an expanded child tax credit and elder care.
But the party hasn’t come to an agreement on this measure. Manchin suggested the bill could be as little as $2 trillion, while Sanders has worked on a $6 trillion proposal. There is, suffice to say, a very wide space in between.
In short: A lot is up in the air. The specific details are still being worked out. It’s not clear if any of this will happen.”
“the Senate can’t pass an unlimited number of reconciliation bills; typically Congress passes one per year. Given a legislative backlog in 2020, Democrats were on track to do two reconciliation bills in the near term — one addressing the budget of the 2021 fiscal year, and one for the budget of the 2022 fiscal year.
According to a Schumer aide, his team is now trying to make the case that Democrats would be able to pass up to three budget reconciliation bills this year. In arguments to the Senate parliamentarian, an in-house procedural expert, aides are pushing for a third bill by citing an arcane rule that hasn’t been used before.”
“Whether Democrats are ultimately able to do this is heavily dependent on the parliamentarian”
“Liberals are wary that the GOP may be trying to prolong infrastructure talks for weeks or even months, potentially setting back Democrats’ ambitious agenda as Biden goes back and forth with the opposition party over how big to go and when. But several prominent progressives also want to keep giving Biden room to try with Republicans — up to a still-undetermined point.
At the moment, the two sides seem very far apart: Biden’s initial infrastructure spending pitch was more than $2 trillion, with a second part of the plan still in development. And several Democrats said Monday they seriously doubt that discussions with the GOP will produce anything at all.
Republicans have not indicated they would be willing to spend anything more than $800 billion — a paltry sum for Democrats — and even that might be a stretch. And while liberals in Congress aren’t yet asking Biden to ditch the talks altogether, they are clearly signaling that his patience, like theirs, should be finite.”