Manchin, Sinema chase after Republican mega-donors and betray their impoverished states

Manchin, Sinema chase after Republican mega-donors and betray their impoverished states
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona speaking at the 2019 Arizona Technology Innovation Summit at The Duce in Phoenix, Gage Skidmore
While President Joe Biden is attempting to undo four years of Trumpish and decades of inequality, Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are being rewarded by Republican mega-donors for the precise purpose of blocking that, blatantly and unapologetically. Along the way, the $6 trillion jobs, economic equality, tax the rich, and climate change plans got whittled down to $3.5 trillion and then down again to $1.75 trillion while Democrats played whack-a-mole with these two and, to a lesser extent, their conservative Democratic House counterparts. When one made a demand that was satisfied, the other would pop up with their own demands, dragging the process out and singlehandedly fanning the flames of "Dems in disarray" reporting.

The whole point of this exercise for the two of them, it appears, is to open up the Republican donor spigot. That's were the really big political money is, and courting it is so much easier than doing the necessary work it takes to amass small donor donations. Like showing up in your state, holding town meetings, and being accountable to the people who put you in office. Besides, going to London and Paris in search of checks is so much more fun.

Both have been feted by Texas donor G. Brint Ryan at his $18 million mansion in Dallas. He advised the former guy on taxes during the 2016 campaign and says of Manchin and Sinema that they are "out of step with their party, but I tend to believe that they're in the right." He has a tax consulting firm and one of is partners, Jeff Miller, is a "close political adviser" to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Ryan and his firm are all-in on the two turncoats according to the Times: "In the days around the fund-raisers at his home, Mr. Ryan, his employees, his company's political action committee and a relative's law firm combined to donate nearly $80,000 to Ms. Sinema's campaign and more than $115,000 to Mr. Manchin's."

The two have set personal bests for fundraising this year, Sinema raking in $2.6 million in the first three quarters—"two and a half times as much as she raised in the same period last year"—and Manchin $3.3 million, which is a whopping 14 times as much as his haul from last year. Both are up for reelection in 2024, so this push isn't to save their seats in a difficult midterm election for Democrats. More likely, at least in Sinema's case, it's to try to scare off a primary challenger. She's been on an image-rehab tour for the past week or so. She spent most of the year sabotaging Biden behind the scenes, not making her demands public and earning the wrath of fellow Democrats and particularly the activists in Arizona who get her elected.

Sinema, who has broken her months-long silence in a "rare interview" fluff piece in Politico and another in the Washington Post, is now casting doubt on whether she'll support Biden's Build Back Better bill passed last week by the House. She's raising the same bullshit argument about inflation as Manchin, telling the Post she is "worried about inflation" and saying "new tax hikes could harm businesses."

At least she's talking, even if it is bullshit. Like when her spokesman tells the Times that all that Republican money she's raking in has nothing to do at all with her policy choices. That spokesman, John LaBombard, told the Times that "Senator Sinema makes decisions based on one consideration: what's best for Arizona."

Accountable.US crunched the numbers for BBB and just how much it will benefit Arizona. They look specifically at the fact that Arizona has the largest Native American population in the country—communities that could gain crucial funding through BBB. In total, the bill has at least $5.2 billion to help Native communities, including more than $2.34 billion for Native American health initiatives, including the Indian Health Service; more than $1.67 billion for Tribal housing, infrastructure, and community development; more than $485 million for climate resilience, conservation, and drought relief specifically for Native American communities; $200 million in grants to Native American language educators; and $523 million in other funding benefitting Native American communities, including funding for a Native American Consultation Resource Center. Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation, the Diné people, is pushing for the bill.

That's just one part of what the bill will do for the state. The White House breaks down more numbers for Arizona: child care to 430,000 young children, providing help to 90% of Arizona's young families; free preschool to more than 134,000 additional children; additional Pell grant assistance to 112,180 Arizona students; grants for job training to 19 community colleges; an additional 262,000 students getting free school meals; 158,000 uninsured people getting access to health insurance; and tax cuts of as much as $1,500 to 385,200 low-wage workers in Arizona. But Sinema is inexplicably more worried about the extremely wealthy who will have to pay more in taxes.

The White House also has the facts for West Virginia, one of the poorest and oldest states in the union. Right now, West Virginia families with two children pay as much as 22% of their income on just child care every year, about $5,871 on average (West Virginia salaries are not high). That's childcare for 94,170 families—child care that could allow parents to further their educations, or take on new jobs, or start businesses. Only a quarter of the state's children now has access to publicly-funded preschool, and private preschools average about $8,600 every year. An additional 27,753 children would be able to go to free preschool. A whopping 21% of West Virginia's children don't consistently have enough to eat. The bill would give free school meals to an additional 38,000 students in the school year and provide food to almost 205,000 students during summers.

There's a tremendous need in both states, with both ranking in the bottom 10 in the nation for the people living in poverty, Arizona at 43rd and West Virginia 44th. You sure couldn't tell it by the priorities of these two senators.

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