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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema at a Senate hearing.

en. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is seen during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee markup in Dirksen Building on Wednesday, August 4, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

As Sinema Blocks Corporate Rate Hike, Demand Grows for Billionaire Tax

"It seems truly unhinged to look at a country full of working people struggling to get by... and decide that it's more important to preserve low tax rates for billionaires and corporations than it is to make significant investments in our families."

Julia Conley

Senate Democrats are weighing their options regarding their plans to ensure the nation's wealthiest individuals and corporations pay their fair share in taxes, as right-wing Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema appears poised to block a key component of President Joe Biden's economic agenda: a reversal of the Trump-era corporate tax cuts.

The Arizona lawmaker—who avoids speaking directly to the press or constituents about her policy priorities—has reportedly told the White House she objects to raising corporate tax rates, which were slashed from 35% to 21% by the Republican Party in 2017, or rates for the wealthiest individuals, which the rest of the Democratic Party wants to raise by just two points to 39%.

"Rather than tinkering with changing rates for existing programs, it's time for [Democrats] to start looking at wholesale structural changes to our tax code, starting with the Billionaires' Income Tax promoted by Sen. Ron Wyden."

With Sinema refusing to join the other 49 Democratic senators in supporting the measures—which would raise at least $700 billion in revenue to help pay for social supports including paid leave, the extended child tax credit, and Medicare and Medicaid expansion—economic justice advocates are calling on Democrats to pass a wealth tax like the ones long called for by progressives including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told Business Insider Thursday that Democrats are "ready to go now" with his own proposal, the Billionaires' Income Tax, which would tax unrealized gains on assets annually. Wyden's proposal has the support of the White House, Business Insider reported.

Morris Pearl, former managing director of investment firm BlackRock and chair of Patriotic Millionaires, called Sinema's objection to reversing the GOP tax law "flat-out absurd."

"It seems truly unhinged to look at a country full of working people struggling to get by in the wake of a devastating pandemic and decide that it's more important to preserve low tax rates for billionaires and corporations than it is to make significant investments in our families and our communities," said Pearl, noting that the wealth of billionaires in the U.S. has exploded by more than $2.1 trillion since the coronavirus pandemic began. 

"But if that's the political reality we are faced with," he continued, "then Democrats must get more creative. Rather than tinkering with changing rates for existing programs, it's time for them to start looking at wholesale structural changes to our tax code, starting with the Billionaires' Income Tax promoted by Sen. Ron Wyden."

On CNN Thursday evening, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called Sinema's objection to the tax plan "outrageous."

"I'm not sure what the problem is here, because we're not talking about something unreasonable," Jayapal told Jake Tapper. "We're actually talking about something that used to exist before the Trump tax cuts."

"We now have 49 Democrats in the Senate who are ready to do those tax increases," she added. "The American people overwhelmingly support them. I would certainly hope the last senator could come along with us."

Jayapal emphasized that "there's lots of ways to pay for" the social spending in the Build Back Better Act, including Wyden's proposal.

"We will get it done," the congresswoman said.


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