Thursday, August 18

Democrats are fed up with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s obstructionist stance

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) faces a series of rebukes from elected Democrats, progressive organizations and members of his own state party after his refusal last week to support a filibuster exception to advance a major voting rights bill.

Sinema, along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), rejected a Democratic effort to restore filibuster for voting rights legislation to pass the Freedom To Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Acts, and the effort ultimately failed by a 48-52 vote on Wednesday.

Now, however, her vote could cost her politically: donors and progressive organizations have announced they will withdraw their support this week, and Sinema could also face a serious primary challenge in 2024, if she runs for re-election to the Senate.

In particular, Emily’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice, both national political organizations focused on electing pro-choice women to political office. they withdrew their support for Sinema on Thursday.

“We believe that Senator Sinema’s decision is not only a blow to voting rights and our electoral system, but also to the work of all the partners who supported her victory and her constituents who tried to communicate the importance of this bill. ”, Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler said in a statement on Thursday, formally withdrawing the organization’s support for Sinema.

That announcement, says Ben Giles, a reporter for NPR affiliate KJZZ in Phoenix, Arizona, is significant for multiple reasons. First, it is unusual for pro-abortion organizations to speak out against filibuster, because it has historically been a tool used to protect abortion rights. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly for Sinema’s political future, Emily’s List was by far the largest donor to Sinema’s 2018 campaign, according to OpenSecrets, contributing nearly half a million dollars.

NARAL, which also backed Sinema during her successful Senate run in 2018, he tweeted on Thursday that “there is no reproductive freedom without the freedom to vote” and said the organization would change its endorsement criteria to endorse only “senators who support changing Senate rules to pass critical legislation that will protect voting rights.”

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“The freedom to vote underpins our fight for reproductive freedom and all the other freedoms we hold dear,” the group said in a statement after Wednesday’s vote. “Absolutely nothing should stand in the way of urgent action to ensure all voters are free to participate in safe and accessible elections.”

According to Politico, 70 of Sinema’s top 2018 campaign donors also wrote Sinema a letter before Wednesday night’s vote, saying they would ask for their donations back if he voted against filibuster reform, as he finally did.

“We must draw a line,” the donors wrote. “We cannot in good conscience support you if you refuse to use your office to protect our fundamental voting rights, and we will be obligated to support alternatives to your seat that do what is right for our country.”

More recently, the executive board of the Arizona Democratic Party voted on Saturday to censor Sinema, setting up a possible vote of no confidence.

According to an Arizona Democratic official who spoke to Vox on condition of anonymity, the state party likely won’t take that step, but Sinema’s political future in the state could still be in trouble.

“I really don’t see a path for her to win the Democratic primary right now,” the agent told Vox, and even if she does, it’s not certain the party will choose to support her in 2024. “I really do feel like we were forced to be in this position,” they said. “It’s not about ‘she’s not progressive enough,’ it’s a pattern.”

Sinema has been frustrating the Democratic leadership all year, particularly with her refusal to endorse elements of President Joe Biden’s proposed climate change and social spending bill, the Build Back Better Act. The senator initially opposed the bill’s $3.5 trillion price tag, which was reduced to around $1.75 trillion when Congress took its vacation, and also said she opposes an increase in the corporate minimum tax rate to help pay for bill proposals. .

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However, Sinema’s continued advocacy of filibuster, even at the cost of major Democratic legislation that Sinema herself supports, turned out to be a step too far for many Democrats. As Norm Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, explained in a conversation with Vox’s Li Zhou in early January, Sinema’s obstructionist rhetoric bears little resemblance to the actual function of the rule.

“We are finally seeing, I think, a level of frustration at the misuse of filibuster, not as a tool infrequently applied by a minority on an issue they feel very, very strongly about, but as a cynical weapon of the masses. obstruction,” Ornstein explained. “There was certainly a time when we had well-established rules in the Senate that encouraged problem solving and bipartisanship. That time is long gone.”

Is Sinema really at risk in 2024?

In addition to the immediate reaction to his filibuster stance, Sinema’s long-term political prospects could be in jeopardy. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has already voiced support for a possible primary challenge against Sinema, and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who is considered a possible candidate to challenge Sinema in 2024, says he has talked to multiple Senate Democrats about doing it.

Gallego also called out Sinema by name in a floor speech earlier this month, following Sinema’s announcement that she would not support an exception to filibuster over voting rights. “We will not hesitate to protect our democracy and the voting rights of all Americans,” Galician said. “It is about time the US Senate and Senator Sinema to do the same”.

On Sunday, Sanders also told NBC’s Chuck Todd about meet the press who supports the Arizona Democratic Party’s decision to censure Sinema. “That was a terrible, terrible vote,” Sanders said. “And I think what the Arizona Democratic Party did was exactly right.”

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Vox reached out to Sinema’s office for comment on a possible challenge to the 2024 primaries and Saturday’s censorship by the state Democratic Party, but did not receive a response before publication.

However, the Arizona Democratic operative told Vox that Sinema’s stance is particularly out of step with the reality of Arizona’s political climate when it comes to voting rights.

“The stakes are high,” they said. “We are ground zero for voter suppression.”

Support for Sinema among Arizona Democrats has already begun to slip in recent months in some polls. In September, 56 percent of Democrats viewed her favorably, according to an OH Predictive Insights poll of a sample of 882 Arizona voters, but a January 18 Public Policy Polling poll of 554 Arizona voters found that only 15 percent of Democrats viewed her favorably. .

“All I will say is that she created the circumstances that she is in now,” Tré Easton, deputy director of the Battle Born Collective, a progressive advocacy group, told Vox via text message regarding a possible challenge. main for Synema. “The people of Arizona deserve better, whether it’s from her or from another Democrat.”

And while Sinema hasn’t lost all of her backing (she still has substantial support from big donors in the pharmaceutical and financial industries), it may not be enough to keep her seat in 2024. Aside from a potential top challenger, Arizona is a state purple where the eventual Democratic Senate nominee will likely find himself in a close general election contest, and the state has been the site of aggressive voter suppression efforts by Republican state officials.

It’s a disconcerting stance from “one of the smartest people in Arizona politics” and someone who has previously been seen as a long-term thinker, the Arizona Democratic agent told Vox.

“A lot of people are really struggling to answer the question of ‘What’s the strategy here?’” they said.

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