Two Democratic senators threatening to derail Joe Biden’s agenda have been condemned by anti-corruption watchdogs for accepting a flood of money from Republican donors and businesses.
Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema present the latest obstacle to the president’s social and climate spending agenda after it was passed by Democrats in the House of Representatives earlier this month.
After previously pressuring colleagues to halve the cost of the Build Back Better plan, the conservative duo continue to voice concerns over its $ 1.75 billion price tag and sprawling ambition.
The status of Manchin and Sinema as recalcitrant in a Senate divided equally between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans has guaranteed inordinate influence and attention. It also appears to be lucrative.
In September, Sinema received a check from Stanley Hubbard, a billionaire Republican donor who is considering a similar contribution to Manchin because of his work to lower the price of the bill, The New York Times reported this week. âThey are two good people – Manchin and Sinema – and I think we need more Democratic Party members,â Hubbard said.
The newspaper also revealed that Manchin, from West Virginia, and Sinema, from Arizona, visited an $ 18 million mansion in Dallas for a summer fundraiser attended by Republican donors and large corporations. who praised their efforts to reduce the Build Back Better bill.
Manchin, for example, opposed popular provisions such as paid family leave and a clean electricity program that would boost wind and solar power while phasing out coal and gas, while Sinema rejected an increase personal and corporate tax rates. Their positions have not gone unnoticed by Wall Street and wealthy conservatives.
The $ 3.3 million raised by Manchin’s campaign in the first nine months of this year was more than 14 times his gain at a similar stage last year, the New York Times added, while the 2, The $ 6 million Sinema campaign raised was two and a half times. what she earned over the same period in 2020.
Such sums, which include contributions from political action committees and donors linked to the financial and pharmaceutical industries, have raised ethical concerns about whether Democrats Manchin and Sinema are being unduly influenced.
Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, a non-partisan watchdog that targets government corruption, said: Cutting costs and taxes for most ordinary people in Arizona and West Virginia?
âCorporate interests and billionaires have performed very well even during the pandemic and need no more special treatment. Senators Sinema and Manchin stand a chance that they may not have again to help so many ordinary families and the elderly move forward on change, so why waste this on complaints from a handful of rich interests who exploit tax loopholes and ship jobs overseas? “
Accountable.US said its own monitoring of business activity found that Manchin took more than $ 1.5 million and Sinema took almost $ 1 million from corporate interests opposed to the Build Back Better plan in September. He added that Sinema had abandoned its earlier support for declining prescription drug prices after a deluge of money from the pharmaceutical industry in the third quarter.
Such patterns have angered grassroots activists who say Sinema’s positions do not match the stated needs and views of his own constituents in Arizona.
Stephany Spaulding, spokesperson for Just Democracy, a coalition of more than 40 civil rights and social justice groups, said in response to the New York Times article: Why. She is busy chasing money from businesses out of state instead of fighting for the needs of her constituents.
“Crucial policies like infrastructure, Build Back Better, Medicaid expansion and voting rights are all incredibly popular, but once again she has demonstrated how fragile her commitment to black and brown Arizonans is.” . “
The House approved the Build Back Better 220-213 legislation as all but one Democrat supported it, overcoming unanimous Republican opposition. After a brief Thanksgiving hiatus, it heads to the Senate, where changes are certain as moderates and progressives vie for its cost and scope.
Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, told reporters on Sunday: âThe House has put forward a very strong bill. Everyone knows that Manchin and Sinema have their concerns, but we will try to negotiate with them and get a very strong and bold bill from the Senate that will then go back to the House and pass.
Manchin is facing pressure to support a provision that would grant four weeks of paid family and medical leave, aligning America with most Western industrial democracies. Sinema’s priorities and red lines were harder to discern, a source of frustration in itself.
Some observers were not surprised that senators attracted money from the Right. Jordan Libowitz, Communications Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew), said: âIt’s not uncommon for megadoners to occasionally cross party lines with their donations. For some it is about hedging their bets, for others it is about rewarding a politician who has succeeded on an issue close to their hearts.
âAt the end of the day, money follows power. Manchin and Sinema seem to be the deciding voices on major laws, so it’s no surprise that people across the aisle are trying to gain influence with them.
But others have described it as an indictment against the influence of money in politics. Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said, âThis is a scandal. The candidates are so thirsty to amass great campaign war treasures that they will offer privileged access to the very interests that are supposed to regulate.
He added, âThe appearance of what’s going on here – lavish public fundraising events – is a dagger through the trust and legitimacy of American democracy. It only captures Americans’ worst fears that politicians are for sale. And I think the public perception is toxic.
The Manchin and Sinema offices did not respond to requests for comment.