Kyrsten Sinema is a Democrat, technically speaking. The senator from Arizona ran as one four years ago, but since arriving in Washington, she’s shown more interest in thwarting, rather than advancing, the party’s agenda. She’s been a favorite of corporate interests, conservative donors, and, not surprisingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who on Monday called her “the most effective first-term senator” he’s ever seen.
McConnell was gushing over Sinema on Monday morning before she spoke at the McConnell Center in Kentucky — an inauspicious place for a Democrat to show their face, much less deliver an address. “She is today what we have too few of in the Democratic Party — a genuine moderate and a deal-maker,” McConnell continued.
Sinema responded by heaping praise on the Republican leader. “Despite our apparently differences, Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship, one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, our respect for the Senate as an institution,” she said.
Sinema has been a thorn in her own party’s side since President Biden took office, long refusing to get on board with the party’s landmark climate legislation while doing all she can to make things easier for the most wealthy Americans. She’s also steadfastly refused to entertain the idea of eliminating the filibuster and allowing Democrats to pass legislation by a majority vote rather than the 60-vote threshold required for certain bills. “She protects the institution of the Senate,” McConnell said, adding that it takes “a lot of guts” for her to say she’s not going to “break the institution in order to achieve short-term goals.”
McConnell hasn’t had much of a problem breaking the institution himself, most notably by refusing to hold a vote to confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court when former President Barack Obama nominated him to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Many worry McConnell would be quick to eliminate the filibuster should Republicans gain control of the White House and Congress, despite his opposition to Democrats doing it while they’re in power.
Sinema not only opposes eliminating the filibuster, but she also said on Monday that she supports restoring the 60-vote threshold to confirming executive nominations, citing how the Senate is meant to “move slowly,” to “think strategically,” and to “cool the passions” of the House. “Most importantly, it was designed to require comity, to require people to compromise and work together, so that the legislation we pass represents the viewpoints of a broad spectrum of the country.”
The problem with all of this is that bipartisanship is effectively dead. Republicans aren’t interested in passing enduring legislation that helps Americans; they’re interested in sabotaging whatever it may be Democrats want to pass. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) last week even bashed an effort to fund law enforcement, arguing that Democrats “don’t want to fund the police, they want to addict the police to the federal dollar.” Regardless of the purpose it was intended to serve, in 2022, the primary function of the 60-vote threshold is to ensure Democrats aren’t able to pass any number of bills Republicans would oppose because they’re more concerned with Democrats failing than America succeeding.
The problem is also that Sinema is certainly well aware of this, and her self-righteous bloviating on Monday is just another way for her to cover the fact that she’s raking in cash from special interests committed to ensuring the filibuster remains in place and Democrats aren’t able to pass legislation that could hamper their bottom line in service of the American people.