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Kyrsten Sinema: From progressive prize to Democrat dealbreaker

Oct 28, 2021


Recent polling shows about a third of Arizona Democrats say their senior senator, Kyrsten Sinema is doing a bad job representing Arizonans. Elected as part of 2018’s “Blue Wave,” Sinema was Arizona’s first Democrat to head to the Senate in more than 20 years. After first being hailed as the progressive savior for the historically conservative state, Sinema now finds herself at odds with many of the people who voted for her.

Sinema is one of two Senate holdouts keeping President Joe Biden’s $3.5T infrastructure agenda from passing in Congress’ upper chamber. Unlike her centrist counterpart Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sinema has refused to say what she wants to see from progressive Democrats when it comes to the $3.5 trillion spending bill. 

This lack of transparency led SNL to spoof her, with Cecily Strong impersonating the senator from Arizona.

“What do I want from this bill? I’ll never tell. Because I didn’t come to congress to make friends. And so far, mission accomplished,” said Strong, acting as Sinema.

While it makes for amusing late-night television, it also leads to frustration for Democrats. Sinema provides a crucial vote to keep President Biden’s agenda moving forward.

Look, I need 50 votes in the Senate. I have 48,” Biden told reporters Monday, October 4.

This isn’t the first time Biden has expressed annoyance with Sinema.

I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’ Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends,” Biden remarked in June.

That is an exaggeration, but Sinema does often vote with Republicans. She gave a literal thumbs down on a $15 minimum wage and voted to confirm former Attorney general Bill Barr.

Sinema is also vocal in her support of the filibuster. “We have more to lose than gain by ending the filibuster,” she wrote in a June op-ed.

GovTrack found that based on her sponsored and co-sponsored legislation, Sinema is the most conservative Democrat in the Senate and even more conservative than two Republicans (Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska). 

Sinema tends to sponsor bills that directly impact Arizonans and has had 10 bills enacted into law during her Senate tenure. About half of her sponsored bills address the armed forces, including veterans issues and government operations, which includes addressing the southern border.

Sinema prides herself on focusing on the issues important to the Grand Canyon State.

“Cross-border trade means more Arizona jobs, a stronger economy, and greater opportunity for Arizona families,” Sinema said while in committee on January 24, 2020. Adding, “I was grateful to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance this agreement and take an important step towards ensuring Arizona employers can sell more products abroad fueling business opportunities here at home.”

Despite her focus on Arizonans, polls show some Arizona Democrats don’t like her. A new poll from OH Predictive Insights has Democrats giving Sinema a 26 percent net favorability rating. That’s in contrast with Arizona’s Junior Senator, Mark Kelly, whose net favorability from that same poll is 69 percent.  

Sinema is no stranger to polling and winning over voters. Before coming to the Senate in 2019, the Tucson native spent 6 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Before that, she spent about 7 years in Arizona’s state house, as both a representative and state senator. Sinema got her start in public service as a social worker at a public school district in the Phoenix area. 

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