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Sinema's last-minute push on Democrats' climate bill added $4 billion to combat Western drought

Jennifer Haberkorn and Ian James, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — When Sen. Joe Manchin III and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer landed a surprise agreement on a health care, climate and tax bill last month, all but one Senate Democrat accepted the deal rather than risk collapse with further negotiation.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the inscrutable Arizona Democrat who has at times voted against her party’s demands, staked her vote on two changes. Most attention focused on her push to eliminate a proposed tax on wealthy investors.

But Sinema’s last-minute efforts also added $4 billion to address the water crisis along the Colorado River as the region endures its most intense drought in centuries, a 23-year run of extreme dryness compounded by the effects of climate change.

The funding is “absolutely critical for Southern California, particularly in the inland areas,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif.

Senators from other Western states had been pushing for drought aid for months, hoping to insert it into a major bill.

But Sinema’s leverage was key because she was the only one willing to put her “yes” vote on the Democrats’ long-delayed bill on the line. Her only concession was reducing her original demand for $5 billion.

 

Democrats say she helped her cause by demanding something that benefited many states — not just her own — and included many politically vulnerable colleagues.

The drought money was officially announced by three Western Democrats who are up for reelection this fall: Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

But when asked where credit lies, Padilla said Sinema, “first and foremost.”

The House on Friday is expected to pass the measure, sending it to Biden for his signature.

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