Kyrsten Sinema Just Wants to Vote No
Her latest objection to the spending bill is an objection for objection's sake
The Democratic spending bill is floundering in the Senate because of the increasingly unreasonable demands of two senators, and Kyrsten Sinema’s latest line in the sand makes clear she’s just looking for an excuse to vote no.
Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, is holding up the bill this time because it includes higher taxes on the rich and corporations.
“She says she will not raise a single penny on taxes for the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period,” President Joe Biden told a CNN town hall on Thursday. “And that’s where it sort of breaks down.”
It’s hard to see Sinema voting in favor of the legislation even if she gets what she wants. Unlike West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Sinema appears motivated by the opportunity to vote against the bill, not by the opportunity to shape it to her will.
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It's unclear exactly what Sinema wants
I wrote about this dynamic at Business Insider earlier this month. To my mind, Sinema is aiming to ape the image of her predecessor, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a stalwart party man who was generously referred to as a “maverick” by the DC press corps he courted and kissed up to.
The problem is, Sinema seems unwilling to put in any effort.
From my piece:
Sinema wants to bask in the adoration of the DC political and media institutions too, but she doesn't want to have to do the work. The Democratic senator isn't interested in glad-handing with the press and the DC establishment, nor corresponding with her own constituents, whom she summarily ignores unless they're holding a check. Rather, Sinema appears to believe she can earn the same respect and adulation simply by frustrating her party's agenda.
The senator's behavior shows that she doesn't understand the game she's trying to play. McCain, though hardly the independent voice he portrayed himself as, could at least point to his few votes bucking his party as consistent with his overall views. Sinema doesn't even have that, as a senior national Democrat told Time's Charlotte Alter: "McCain, you knew what his values were. You never had to question what his vision was for the country. And you really can't answer that question for Kyrsten."
Part of the problem is that what Sinema is doing is completely unclear. Instead of parlaying her position as one of the two linchpins to a reconciliation deal into a heightened profile and more power in the Senate, she inexplicably left town last weekend to attend a fundraiser and teach a course at Arizona State University. It's unclear what Sinema even wants and she seems unwilling to tell them.
Despite Sinema’s unwillingness to define what she stands for, simply obstructing the Biden agenda has earned her glowing press from exactly the type of DC insider journalists you’d expect.
I wrote about this phenomenon for FAIR:
Perhaps the biggest roadblock to a deal, Sinema is portrayed in corporate media as a quirky, party-bucking, principled politician—rather than the reflexive obstructionist she’s proven to be in negotiations (Vanity Fair, 9/30/21).
That lack of purpose in talks with party leaders is paired with her cozying up to big corporate donors. As Sinema has stifled the social spending legislation, she’s reaped the benefits, taking in hundreds of thousands from the financial, insurance and real estate sectors, according to Open Secrets. She held a fundraiser on September 27 (New York Times, 9/27/21) with industry lobbyists opposed to the tax burden they fear would be a byproduct of the bill, and another high-dollar affair on October 2 with her PAC’s major donors (New York Times, 10/1/21).
When it comes to reworking Sinema’s image, Axios (10/1/21) has been one of the worst offenders, setting up the senator to readers as someone you might think has left-leaning politics, but doesn’t:
Progressives could be forgiven for presuming that Sinema, 45, the first openly bisexual member of Congress, who’s easy to spot in her trademark sleeveless dresses, wry wigs and acrylic glasses, would share their woke politics.
They’ve been befuddled, and increasingly enraged, when she behaves more like the late Republican Sen. John McCain, another Arizonan who didn’t mind challenging party orthodoxies.
Gannett’s Arizona Republic (online as AZCentral), a conservative paper in Sinema’s home state, has argued in favor of the embattled senator even as her refusal to negotiate in real terms about what she wants frustrates Democratic colleagues. In an opinion piece aiming to recast Sinema’s aimless intransigence as evidence of her independence, columnist Laurie Roberts (9/30/21) claimed that by killing Biden’s agenda, Sinema was acting to save it:
She has charted a middle course, in search of solutions that have bipartisan support. Sort of like a certain president who now is pressing for the entire wish list of progressive proposals.
And Bill Maher, the increasingly right-leaning host of HBO’s Real Time (10/1/21), threw his support behind Sinema as well as West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, sneering that the two senators “might have their thumb more on the pulse on the average Democrat in the country” than the 95-member Congressional Progressive Caucus does.
We’ll see what happens.
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