GOP targets Sinema while going all out to block Democratic bill

Senate Republicans say they’re planning to pull out all the stops to deal some pain to Democrats as the majority party gets set to move a sweeping tax reform bill through the chamber and to the House and President Biden.

Republicans are strategizing and laying the groundwork to make things as difficult for Democrats as possible, and they are reaching out to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who has yet to back the deal.

Democrats are using a special budget process to get around a GOP filibuster, and cannot afford a single defection in their ranks.

“This bill shouldn’t pass and become law. It’s going to cause a lot of pain for the American people,” Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the upper chamber, told The Hill on Tuesday while hinting at the GOP efforts to slow things down. “I don’t care about what pain it may cause members of the Democratic Party.”

Republican leaders are anticipating filing hundreds of amendments to the measure, known as the Inflation Reduction Act. The amendments will touch on immigration, health care and taxes as the Senate buckles up for a marathon voting session known as a vote-a-rama in the days ahead.

The vote-a-rama is just one of several hurdles that Senate Democrats must clear to use the complex budget reconciliation process to bypass a filibuster.

During the typically lengthy procedure, the minority is permitted to offer amendments to the legislation before leaders bring the measure to the Senate floor for a vote. This will allow Republicans to make last-minute changes to the partisan plan, if any of the amendments are approved. They can also make Democrats take tough political votes.

“The last time we did reconciliation, I think there were over 1,000 amendments filed,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, though he added senators “voted on about 45” during the session. The vote-a-rama could last until well after midnight depending on how late senators begin the voting marathon.

“We’re going to try and walk through the amendment process. Get as many votes on amendments that make it more difficult for Democrats to be for it in the end,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate.

Many Republican senators have kept their cards close about what amendments they plan to introduce, pending any potential changes to the bill that will be made while it undergoes review by the Senate parliamentarian, who decides which parts of the measure comply with budget reconciliation rules.

During the review process, Republicans also have a chance to make objections to parts of the legislation. Leaders are first awaiting figures from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Among the proposals packed into the 700-plus-page bill announced by Democrats last week are provisions imposing a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations with profits exceeding $1 billion, a funding boost for the IRS to beef up hiring and enforcement of tax laws and language aimed at closing the so-called carried interest loophole.

The bill also includes language aimed at lowering drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of some prescription drugs, as well as proposed investments in clean energy.

Democrats say the bill would raise $739 billion in revenue, citing estimates from CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation. The bill would spend an estimated $433 billion on party-backed priorities in energy security, climate and health care.

Democrats say the bill would help bring down the country’s deficit by $300 billion, and are casting the legislation as an effort to reduce inflation.

But as Democrats plow forward with the plan, Republicans have been on offense, arguing the bill will contribute to higher taxes and add to inflation, as rising prices have surged to the top of voters’ minds in recent months.

“If you look at all the analysis that’s been done, the distributional analysis and everything else shows that this hits a lot of lower-income Americans, contrary to what the Democrats have said,” Thune charged on Monday.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said she plans to introduce amendments, adding she’s specifically focused on climate issues that could be “extremely hurtful” to her state.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) raised concerns about tax pieces in the plan he said could diminish part of former President Trump’s signature tax law dealing with bonus depreciation for manufacturers.

“A lot of companies have used it as increased investment,” Portman said. “This could go the other way and say you have to depreciate it over a long period of time. So, I’ll probably offer something along those lines if others don’t.”

Democrats say they’re prepared for what Republicans have in store, though there has been some anxiety on their own side of the aisle, as Sinema leaves her colleagues guessing where she stands on tax reform proposals.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who helped craft the bill along with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), has said he is reaching out to Sinema amid concerns about her support for the overall bill.

But Republicans are pitching her too.

“We’re going to argue to her, and everybody else for that matter, that it’s just that this is a bad time with inflation and a wobbly economy to be raising taxes,” Thune said.