Conservative Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona enraged fellow Democrats yet again after she doubled down on her opposition to filibuster reform at a consequential moment.
In the face of dozens of voter suppression laws passed by Republican legislatures in the past year, Democrats have repeatedly sought to pass voting rights legislation to guarantee access to the ballot box. Most recently, the Senate tried to pass a House-approved fusion of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. Thanks to the Senate filibuster, which requires at least 60 votes for most legislation to pass debate, the bill failed when, predictably, no Republicans signed on.
When a measure to change the chamber rules to bypass the filibuster came to the floor, Sinema—along with fellow conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia—shot it down.
It's the latest display of contempt for her own party that Sinema's shown. Last March, she infamously voted against a measure that would've raised the minimum wage up to $15 an hour. Just this past fall, Sinema was a key hindrance to the ambitious second part of President Joe Biden's infrastructure package: Build Back Better. It remains stalled in the Senate.
Democrats rejoiced when they kept control of the House while regaining the Senate and presidency, regaining a trifecta for the first time in more than a decade.
But in the face of razor-thin majorities, more and more Democrats are asking why the hell Sinema should be granted another term.
EMILY's list—the political action committee known for backing women Democrats who fight for abortion access—has an answer: she shouldn't be.
The organization announced that it would no longer endorse Sinema due to her opposition to filibuster reform.
EMILY's List president, Laphonza Butler, explicitly tied the fight for reproductive freedom to voting access in the statement:
"Understanding that access to the ballot box and confidence in election results are critical to our work and our country, we have joined with many others to impress upon Sen. Sinema the importance of the pending voting rights legislation in the Senate. So far those concerns have not been addressed. We have not endorsed or contributed to Sen. Sinema since her election in 2018. Right now, Sen. Sinema’s decision to reject the voices of allies, partners and constituents who believe the importance of voting rights outweighs that of an arcane process means she will find herself standing alone in the next election."
EMILY's List isn't the only pro-choice group revoking its support of Sinema. NARAL Pro-Choice America, a pro-choice lobbying firm founded even before Roe v. Wade tacitly withdrew its backing as well, saying it would no longer support politicians unwilling to bypass the filibuster to secure fundamental rights.
The group announced its decision in a recent tweet.
There's no reproductive freedom without the freedom to vote. With both freedoms at stake, we’re changing our endorsement criteria. We’ll only endorse U.S. senators who support changing the Senate rules to pass the critical legislation that will protect voting rights.
— NARAL (@NARAL) January 20, 2022
People praised this new line in the sand.
Kicking her to the curb. As they should. Her allegiance is to big $, not her constituents. Greed. https://t.co/FUKMdRcUzU
— ☃️ Ellanne ‘Lola’☃️ (@simplysnowymist) January 21, 2022
More of this! Relinquish support of Sen. Sinema! https://t.co/5a9cZS8Wqr
— Alicia Dzamonja (@alicia_dzamonja) January 20, 2022
It's not just voting rights the filibuster threatens. With the Supreme Court likely to dramatically revert abortion access in the United States in the coming year, calls to legislatively codify Roe v. Wade have been stronger than ever, but—again, thanks to the filibuster—are a nonstarter in the current congressional landscape.
Sinema responded in a statement:
"While the Senate's 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation has been used repeatedly to protect against wild swings in federal policy, including in the area of protecting women's health care, I said on the Senate floor last week that different people of good faith can have honest disagreements about policy and strategy. Such honest disagreements are normal, and I respect those who have reached different conclusions on how to achieve our shared goals of addressing voter suppression and election subversion and making the Senate work for everyday Americans."
Sinema did not mention the times she's voted in favor of filibuster carve-outs as recently as November, or the ways in which the Supreme Court is likely to clear the way for state legislatures to ban abortions as early as six weeks—if not before.
In other words, the statement left a lot to be desired.
The right to choose is being gutted by the Supreme Court. Mitch McConnell got rid of the filibuster to pack the Court.
I am so sick of her and Manchin with their BS and ever changing logic for defending the filibuster. https://t.co/g7WP8PCpAM
— Tami Bird (@tbird_57) January 19, 2022
SCOTUS is going to overturn Roe because Trump got three justices on the court after McConnell got rid of the filibuster for SCOTUS nominees… https://t.co/8taOvkImyC
— Justin Satzman (@jsatz23) January 19, 2022
It’s true. The filibuster has been used for lots of stuff but right now it’s being used to allow partisans to make it hard for people to vote, and to challenge and overturn legit elections. If we lose this, we lose all those future issues. It won’t matter. https://t.co/U6Dcg0UOip
— deb lavoy (@deb_lavoy) January 19, 2022
But despite massive outcry, Sinema still shows no signs of budging.