Maverick Senator Kyrsten Sinema does what she thinks is right, no matter the backlash. Now, the relatively moderate Arizona Democrat is being thrown under the bus by her own state party for her principled stance defending the Senate filibuster.
The official Arizona Democratic Party voted today to formally censure the senator because she refuses to bypass the filibuster—the rule requiring 60 votes out of 100 to advance legislation rather than a mere majority—to push through Democratic partisan election overhauls.
“The Arizona Democratic Party is a diverse coalition with plenty of room for policy disagreements, however on the matter of the filibuster and the urgency to protect voting rights, we have been crystal clear,” the party said in a statement. “While we take no pleasure in this announcement… [we have] decided to formally censure Senator Sinema as a result of her failure to do whatever it takes to ensure the health of our democracy.”
— Arizona Democratic Party (@azdemparty) January 22, 2022
This rebuke is entirely off-base.
Although she supports the underlying election legislation, Sinema won’t undermine the filibuster to pass it because she believes in its value as an institution promoting compromise, providing policy stability, and providing a check to the passions of the moment.
“While I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country,” the senator said in a recent speech.
“It is clear two-party strategies are not working, not for either side, and especially not for the country,” Sinema continued. “So it’s comfortable for members of each party, particularly those who spent their career in party politics, to think that their respective party alone can move the country forward. Party control becomes a goal in and of itself.”
“But what is the legislative filibuster, other than a tool that requires new federal policy to be broadly supported by senators representing a broader cross section of Americans?” Sinema asked. “A guardrail, inevitably viewed as an obstacle by whoever holds the Senate majority; but which in reality ensures that millions of Americans represented by the minority party have a voice in the process.”
Sinema deserves credit, not condemnation, for her principled stance here.
After all, it’s easy to defend institutional checks and balances when your party is in the minority. That’s why in 2017, when Donald Trump was president and the GOP controlled the Senate, 30 Democratic senators wrote a letter defending the filibuster and imploring Mitch McConnell to keep it intact. (He did.)
In 2017, 30 Senate Democrats signed a bipartisan letter urging then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to keep the filibuster: pic.twitter.com/xjGEdfXDH1
— Christian Schneider (@Schneider_CM) January 19, 2022
Yet many of those same senators have flipped on a dime and want to scrap or weaken the filibuster now that their party is in charge and it’s their preferred legislation at stake.
This kind of rank hypocrisy and cynicism is why Congress has a 20 percent approval rating. (Yes, seriously: 77 percent of the country disapproves of their job performance!)
What truly takes guts is defending principle when it’s your turn in power. Think about it: Sinema is rising above the passions of the moment and preserving the institutions that keep us free even though it means her preferred legislative agenda won’t be passed right now. How many other politicians are honest and consistent enough to do that?
Power-hungry Arizona Democratic Party officials might condemn Sinema for standing on principle. But the American people should thank her.