Sinema’s sabotage of Build Back Better agenda blasted in Arizona
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., smiles and waves as she departs the Capitol in Washington. Back in her home state of Arizona, her efforts to sabotage the Build Back Better Act aren't eliciting many smiles. | Jose Luis Magana / AP

WASHINGTON—With Democratic President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better progressive agenda hanging in the balance in Congress, D.C.’s attention has focused on one of the two key and openly hostile Senate Democrats, West Virginian Joe Manchin. The other, Arizonan Krysten Sinema, is now  emerging, however, as likely the biggest threat to the president’s agenda. Corporate donors are rewarding her with checks for thousands of dollars as she turns a deaf ear to pleas from President Biden who has spent hours meeting with her.

Her constituents in Arizona are moving to try to pressure her into ceasing her hostility to the people who sent her to Washington to represent them. There, the state’s Democratic central committee voted 415-99 on Sept. 25 for a “no confidence” resolution against Sinema for the right-wing stand she has taken. It was progressives’ second such attempt to pass such a resolution in two years. Committee leaders sidetracked the first, criticizing her votes for right-wing Donald Trump-named judicial ideologues, the year before. The committee didn’t cut her any slack this time, though.

“We all are facing a critical crossroads and nothing less than our democracy is at stake,” the resolution declared.

Democrats could lose

“All indicators show Democrats could lose both the House and Senate in 2022 if we do not ‘deliver the goods’ by passing voting rights, healthcare, Medicare expansion, two-year free college funding, immigration reform, specifically a path to citizenship for Dreamers, labor rights, green jobs, climate emergency/environmental protection legislation and more,” the successful no confidence resolution against Sinema stated.

The resolution adds “the clear implication” Sinema could lose party backing when she seeks re-election in 2024, if she continues her obstruction.

The party resolution also demands Sinema abandon her defense of the filibuster, the racist-inspired Senate rule which lets a 41-lawmaker minority—in this Senate, all Republicans–block anything and everything. Manchin still supports the filibuster, too.

And there are other similarities between the two stubborn senators, who are key votes in the evenly split Senate:

  • Like Manchin, Sinema says the $3.5 trillion complex Build Back Better bill, which breaks down to an average of $350 billion per year over a decade, is too big. Also like Manchin, she won’t specify what she wants to cut from it.

That’s because its programs, such as expanding Medicare to cover vision, dental and hearing treatment, letting Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices down, making paid family and medical leave permanent, extending the child care tax credit and funding projects to combat climate change—an issue raging in Arizona along with western forest fires—are all popular back home.

  • Also popular, at least in rallies outside Sinema’s offices, are how Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., and congressional Democrats will pay for their ideas. They include tax hikes on corporations and the rich, higher taxes on oil and natural gas extraction companies, much higher fines against labor law-breakers, and extending those fines to more offenses against workers seeking to unionize and protect themselves against corporate greed.
  • Like Manchin, Sinema isn’t up for re-election until 2024, and most voters have short memories. But unlike Manchin, she should be listening to both sides of the political spectrum. Manchin, at least, may have a political excuse for ignoring progressive pressure.

Arizona is a red-turning-purple state. Biden won it last year, the first Democrat to do so in two decades, though it was trending Democratic even before 2020. Arizona’s congressional delegation is split. Fellow Sen. Mark Kelly (D), an ex-astronaut and husband of venerated former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D), appears to be coasting towards 2022 re-election. Meanwhile, Arizona’s Republicans are at war with each other over who shows the most fealty to former GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump.

Now deep red

Manchin’s West Virginia is now deep red and GOP-gerrymandered. He’s the only statewide Democratic officeholder and its only congressional Democrat. And Trump carried the Mountaineer State in 2020 by 39 percentage points over Biden.

  • Like Manchin, Sinema has close ties to, and raises big money from, corporate lobbies. Of the $27 million, cumulative, she’s raised for campaigns, starting with her first U.S. Senate race in 2017-18, $1.716 million was from officers, lobbyists and campaign finance committees of banks and securities firms, OpenSecrets.org reported. Sinema sits on the Senate Banking Committee, which writes legislation affecting those industries.

All this has led progressives, notably the Working Families Party’s Arizona affiliate, Indivisible.org, the Just Democracy Coalition of 40 Black and brown groups, the Arizona Coalition for Change, and Arizonans for Gun Safety, to turn up the heat on Sinema at home. So has the Arizona branch of the Poor People’s Campaign.

  • WFP is running an ad blitz to push Sinema to both back Build Back Better and to vote to kill the filibuster. “Just this morning, Politico reported Kyrsten Sinema issued an ‘ultimatum’ to Joe Biden and is threatening to tank our entire agenda along with other obstructionist corporate Democrats in the House,” the group reported.

“She’s standing with her campaign donors instead of Arizona working families who would lose out if she follows through with her threats. That’s why, starting today, we’re placing a digital ad buy targeting Arizona voters with a simple message: “Kyrsten, stop the games and VOTE YES to Build Back Better.” (their emphasis).

  • WFP also states that in her first Senate campaign, Sinema pledged to fight to lower prescription drug prices, a key issue for Arizona’s huge population of senior citizens, who vote in higher proportions than other groups. But in ensuing years, she’s taken $750,000 in individual and corporate campaign finance funds from Big Pharma. And Big Pharma benefits if Biden’s Build Back Better bill goes down, WFP explains.
  • In July, the Poor People’s Campaign held a peaceful civil disobedience sit-in at Sinema’s Phoenix office, also to push domestic spending, ending the filibuster and strengthening voting rights. Police arrested campaign co-chair, the Rev. William Barber II, veteran civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson and 37 other people.
  • “Call Sen. Sinema and tell her to start fighting for our communities,” Just Democracy appeals in a video, then flashing Sinema’s picture and her D.C. office phone, (202) 224-4521, on screen.

“We need Congress to deliver an infrastructure package that meets the scale of the crises we face and makes sure every single one of us has what we need to thrive. Help us show Sinema that it’s time to be BOLD!” Just Democracy added in a Facebook post announcing a demonstration-press conference-dance party outside her Phoenix office on Sept. 21.

“I’m one of Sen. Sinema’s constituents, and we have made our demands loud and clear,” Channel Powe of Just Democracy added in another post.

“We want her to represent ‘We the people,’ not the interests of corporations and Republicans who are attempting to undercut Black and Brown communities at every turn. Voting rights, reproductive justice, a pathway to citizenship, and a thriving economy all hinge on the elimination of the Jim Crow filibuster.

“Sen. Sinema has one option, to either step in to save our democracy or allow it to crumble. History’s eyes will be upon her.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

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