Sinema has become a major obstacle to Biden’s legislative agenda by 'adopting the party-snubbing mantle' of John McCain
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is widely regarded as the most conservative Democrat in the U.S. Senate, but Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona easily runs a close second. Journalist Mike DeBonis, in an article published by the Washington Post on September 15, outlines some of the ways in which Sinema has been an obstacle for President Joe Biden's spending plans and his Build Back Better agenda.
Biden himself spent many years in the U.S. Senate before becoming President Barack Obama's vice president in January 2009, and during his decades as a senator, Biden was on very friendly terms with a Republican who Sinema has often exalted as her politico hero: the late Sen. John McCain, a self-described "Goldwater Republican" (as in arch-conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater). By extension, that arguably makes Sinema a "Goldwater Democrat."
"With Democrats eyeing $2 trillion or more in tax increases to offset their spending plans, Sinema has publicly allied with Republicans on several tax bills," DeBonis notes. "As a House member, she was one of seven Democrats to support a GOP bill eliminating the federal estate tax in 2015 and was one of only three Democrats who, in 2018, voted to permanently extend individual tax cuts passed by Republicans the year prior."
A Republican senator, interviewed by the Post on condition of anonymity, said of Sinema, "She does not like tax increases."
Although Democrats have a majority in the Senate, it is a narrow one — and that makes Sinema and Manchin key swing votes, not unlike Sen. Susan Collins of Maine or Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska on the Republican side. Sinema worked closely with Republican senators on a bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed in the Senate, but she has made it clear that she will not vote for a $3.5 million bill.
DeBonis reports, "In a signal of how seriously Sinema's views are being taken, she met with Biden at the White House on Wednesday morning, with Manchin attending a similar meeting later in the day…. While Democrats privately express exasperation at both of the holdout senators, several colleagues said that they have become accustomed to Manchin's penchant for putting himself into the center of virtually any hot-button negotiation. Sinema's motivations, they said, have been harder to read — and her concerns tougher to predict — but party leaders have had no choice but to take them seriously in the 50-50 Senate."
Some progressive Democrats have openly expressed their frustration with Sinema, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City. Sinema and Manchin are adamantly opposed to ending the filibuster, which requires a minimum of 60 votes for most legislation — even when it comes to voting rights bills.
"(Sinema's) firm position against changing the rules has fueled efforts at pressuring her at home in Arizona, including ad campaigns, activist rallies and pleas from statehouse Democrats," DeBonis observes. "But there has been little indication that Sinema has been discomfited by the backlash on the left, and she has appeared increasingly comfortable adopting the party-snubbing mantle of her GOP predecessor and political idol John McCain."
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