An idea from Hickenlooper helped Democrats reach deal with Sinema on climate and tax bill

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Sen. John Hickenlooper in Clear Creek Canyon on Friday, September 17, 2021, where he and professional climber Tommy Caldwell were promoting legislation to curb climate change and boost Colorado’s outdoor industry.

Senate Democrats announced a final agreement on their ambitious health care, climate and tax bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, late Thursday. Reaching that agreement came with an assist from Colorado freshman Sen. John Hickenlooper.

While Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin announced their deal on the package last week, one huge question remained: Would fellow centrist Democratic Sen. Krysten Sinema also agree to it, giving the caucus its crucial 50th vote?

Sinema had concerns about some of the elements intended to pay for the bill and reduce the deficit, including the end of the carried interest tax loophole that benefits hedge fund managers and the structure of a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations.

Closing the tax loophole would have brought in about $14 billion in additional funding. CPR News can confirm that Hickenlooper offered up an alternative idea that was accepted by both sides — a 1 percent excise tax. Hickenlooper brought the idea to Schumer, as first reported by CNN. The funding from the excise tax will exceed what closing the carried interest tax loophole would have generated.

The idea helped address some of Sinema’s concerns while keeping intact most elements of the deal worked out between Schumer and Manchin ,and ensuring the package will reduce the deficit by $300 billion..

Hickenlooper said on Thursday, “This is one of the most important pieces of legislation I've seen in 50 years — that we can actually begin going after climate change in real time."

This isn’t the only way Hickenlooper has helped push this bill, which has been over a year in the making, closer to the finish line. The Coloradan was also key in keeping talks going with Manchin.

One last hurdle remains. The Senate parliamentarian must agree that all the provisions in the bill meet the Byrd rule that says no “extraneous matters” can be considered when using reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows some budget bills to get through the Senate with a simple majority.

The Senate is expected to move forward with the bill Saturday afternoon.