Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), an out bisexual, is holding the Democratic Party hostage as she continues to oppose President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda – from the massive investment in infrastructure to LGBTQ civil rights.
Now while the House of Representatives refuses to pass a budget bill that she helped to negotiate that was dramatically lower than needed until she gets on board with a reconciliation bill that increases the investments in the American people, Sinema is holding her ground. She says she will never vote for it.
Sinema’s stance will scuttle initiatives on education, child care, paid family and medical leave, climate change, voting rights, and economic opportunity along with the Equality Act, landmark civil rights legislation for the LGBTQ community.
The senator says she can’t support Biden’s “Build Back Better” package because of its price tag.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), meanwhile, is barely holding back a revolt by moderate legislators who insist they should pass the bipartisan budget bill without waiting on the Senate to write and approve the larger spending bill.
The Senate-passed bill spends $550 billion. The infrastructure bill plans for $3.5 trillion in extra spending. Both bills use tax increases on the uber-rich and corporations to fund the measures.
Sinema, along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), refuses to vote in favor of reforming the filibuster, a Senate procedural move used to stop legislation from moving through the body. It is a relic of Jim Crow and is currently being used to stop voting reform, raising the minimum wage, and landmark LGBTQ civil rights legislation.
The measure requires 60 votes instead of the usual 50 to get a bill passed. With the Senate equally divided 50-50, it effectively means that any bill requires the support of at least 10 Republicans to pass. The GOP has been united in opposing any legislation supported by Democrats and refused to support Biden’s agenda.
But during the budget reconciliation process, only 50 votes are needed to get the initiatives past the Republican roadblock. For the measure to work though, it would require the support of all Senate Democrats – and Sinema just threw a wrench into the works.
When LGBTQ activists and donors pointedly issued an ultimatum demanding Sinema get on board or lose support from the community, the senator published an op-ed in the Washington Post defending her decision to scuttle bills that tackled issues she campaigned on. By refusing to remove the filibuster, Sinema has essentially doomed what she claims are her own priorities.
Claiming the filibuster “compels moderation and helps protect the country,” Sinema said, “To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass the For the People Act (voting-rights legislation I support and have co-sponsored), I would ask: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to see that legislation rescinded a few years from now and replaced by a nationwide voter-ID law or restrictions on voting by mail in federal elections, over the objections of the Senate minority?”
Sinema’s dubious sudden decision to buck the party on the budget is only based on her financial concerns, she insisted to the media. The bill could be passed without Republicans because Democrats are using the reconciliation process, which allows them to pass some budgetary measures with a majority of the vote.
“While I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion – and in the coming months, I will work in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration to strengthen Arizona’s economy and help Arizona’s everyday families get ahead,” Sinema said in a statement announcing her opposition to the reconciliation process.
In a recently revealed video, several notoriously anti-LGBTQ politicians, chief among them former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) tell an audience that they should thank Sinema for dooming LGBTQ rights laws.