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No, Kyrsten Sinema Is Not Like John McCain

I don't know Kyrsten Sinema, but I did know John McCain. Not at all intimately, to be sure, but just enough to say -- despite her pretensions and the fantasies of her flacks that she is the reincarnation of the war hero in a purple wig -- that Kyrsten Sinema is no John McCain.

Lately Sinema has advertised herself as a "maverick," by which she means that she flouts the positions and policies of her party's leadership, and is supposed to pair her with McCain, who sometimes strayed from the Republican party line. Her most notorious attempt at imitation occurred last year with a gesture on the Senate floor marking her vote against a minimum wage increase. Her coy mimicry of the admired war hero was synthetic, leaving an unpleasant odor in its wake. When McCain delivered his bold "thumbs down" on gutting Obamacare, he was protecting Arizona's working families – not betraying them.

Why Sinema behaves so erratically these days is mysterious to many pundits, in part because she simply refuses to talk with journalists. Her Sphinx act would have been impossible for McCain, who frequently and happily discussed in detail why he acted and voted as he did -- or almost any topic that a reporter might bring up.

Sinema may not hate journalists—who knows?—but she plainly doesn't want to hang out with them. Like I said, she's no John McCain.

Indeed, I first met the late senator when he approached me at a Washington dinner to say a few nice words about a recent TV appearance where I had expressed views he certainly did not share. I had no problem reaching him for an interview in the years following that friendly introduction – and he was even more easily available to those who covered him regularly. Candid and thoughtful, he saw engagement with the press as a vital part of the job. He loved being known as a "straight shooter," a nickname he aimed to deserve.

There could hardly be a sharper contrast with the squirrelly Sinema. A political reporter who has covered her for the New York Times recently wrote that she's "one of the most elusive senators on Capitol Hill," noting that she "doesn't engage with Washington reporters in a serious way." She also doesn't engage with reporters in an unserious way, again unlike McCain, who had a sense of humor, too. She applies the same arrogant disregard to her constituents, with whom she doesn't deign to meet in public.

Her secretive style wouldn't have impressed McCain, famed for hosting what the Arizona Republic called "his free-for-all town hall sessions." Just enter "McCain" and "town hall" in a search engine to see video of what those were like.

Sinema's shifting ideological colorations display a kaleidoscopic, almost dizzying opportunism – which isn't quite the right look for a politician emulating McCain. Yet there was an episode in McCain's career that invites comparison with the way she operates now.

In 1991, following the crisis that bankrupted the savings-and-loan industry, McCain was one of five US senators investigated for intervening with regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, a crooked financier whose Lincoln Savings & Loan went under at a cost of $3.4 billion. Like McCain, the other four – including Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), Don Riegle (D-MI), Alan Cranston (D-CA) and John Glenn (D-OH) – had taken big donations from Keating. Keating had also provided the McCain family with free flights and hospitality at his Bahamas estate on three occasions as well as various other favors.

The Senate Ethics Committee investigated "the Keating Five," ultimately issuing wrist slaps, but the public hearings and news reports were nevertheless damning. Here was a clique of politicians who looked as if Keating had bought them rather cheaply.

The emerging image of Sinema -- who opposes lower prices for prescription drugs after taking nearly a million dollars from the Pharma lobby and has become a darling of K Street – is no more flattering. So far, Sinema shows no signs of the remorse that overcame McCain, who publicly flagellated himself for "the worst mistake of my life" and later fought for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms that Republicans opposed.

So when Sinema postures as a rebel and invokes McCain, don't get distracted by the superficial pretense. McCain learned from his mistakes. Sinema hasn't learned from the real McCain. But, like I said, she's no John McCain.

Koch Network Operative Urges Sinema To ‘Stay Strong’ Against Taxing The Rich

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The head of a right-wing organization with ties to the Koch network offered words of encouragement to Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Thursday amid reports that she's holding up her party's budget reconciliation package over its proposed tax hikes on the rich and big businesses.

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Arizona Democrats Warn Sinema: 'We've Unseated More Powerful People'

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

In 2019 and 2020 — when Republicans still had a majority in the U.S. Senate — it was obvious that Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona had a lot more in common with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia than she did with the liberal/progressive wing of the Democratic Party. But it wasn't until the Joe Biden era, after Democrats regained the Senate, that she came to be seen as someone who could make or break the Democratic agenda. Journalist Lauren Gambino, in an article published by The Guardian on October 10, examines Sinema's political motivations — and whether Sinema is an "obstructionist" or a "pragmatist" depends on which interviewee The Guardian is talking to.

"For years," Gambino explains, "Sinema has honed a brand of centrism that observers say better aligns with the politics of Arizona, a once-Republican stronghold shaped by the conservatism of Barry Goldwater, a senator and nominee for president in 1964. Invoking the late senator John McCain as a hero, Sinema promised to be an 'independent voice' and appealed to suburban women, independents and disaffected Republicans. In 2018, Arizona duly sent a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in 30 years."

Sinema, an adamant supporter of the Senate filibuster, has been a frequent source of frustration to liberals and progressives in her party. But independents and Never Trump conservatives tend to hold her in higher regard.

One of those conservative Trump critics is Chuck Coughlin, a Phoenix-based political consultant and former Republican. Coughlin, interviewed by The Guardian, said of Sinema, "Her ideological core is pragmatism. She understands that if she is to succeed in Arizona, she must succeed in this lane."

But Garrick McFadden, on the other hand, is among the Arizona Democrats who is openly expressing his frustration with Sinema. McFadden, who formerly served as vice chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, recently tweeted, "She has betrayed her friends and the promise she made to the Arizona people. She wants to play games, well in 2023 we start playing games with her."

Another Democratic Sinema critic is Phoenix-based activist Gilbert Romero, who told The Guardian, "She thinks she's like Teflon and nothing is going to stick to her; that's misguided. We've (unseated) much more powerful people than Kyrsten Sinema."

Among progressive Democrats, there has been talk of giving Sinema a primary challenge in 2024, when she will be up for reelection. But doing so would be risky, as Sinema is in a state with a long history of conservatism. Although Arizona has evolved into a swing state, it still isn't a deep blue state like Massachusetts, California or Vermont. President Joe Biden won Arizona in 2020 — contrary to the false claims of former President Donald Trump — but not by double digits.

One of Sinema's defenders is Danny Seiden, president and chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Seiden praised Sinema's "willingness to listen and not just toe the party line on all issues," telling The Guardian, "I think that's a rarity amongst both Democrats and Republicans these days."


McConnell Proves That ‘Bipartisan’ Filibuster Is A Fraud

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to be almost intentionally making a mockery of the small number of Democratic senators who continue to defend the filibuster.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have vocally opposed any effort to change the chamber's rules that require 60 votes to proceed on most legislation. Many Democratic lawmakers and advocates have called for the filibuster to be abolished, which would make it easier for the party to enact various pillars of its agenda.

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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

As Sinema Thwarts Biden Agenda, Democrats Plot Challenge To Her


Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia isn't exactly helping the White House forge a compromise between the liberal and centrist wings of the Democratic party. But let's be real, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is almost single-handedly blowing up the entire Democratic agenda along with any chances of the party keeping its congressional majorities next year.

So after Sinema made several trips to the White House to meet with President Joe Biden in recent days, White House staffers were headed to her office on Wednesday.

Why? Because exactly no one can figure out what she wants or how to get her to say what she wants.

"Literally, one senator—one Senator—Kyrsten Sinema, is holding up the will of the entire Democratic party," Rep. Ro Khanna of California told CNN's John Berman Tuesday night.

"The president keeps begging her—tell us what you want, put a proposal forward," added Khanna.

Khanna, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, noted that progressives have been open to compromise all along the way—coming down from a $6 trillion budget bill to a $3.5 trillion budget bill, offering to front-load the benefits and shorten their life in order to get the measure within reach of Democratic moderates. But how do you compromise, Khanna wondered, when Sinema won't lay down a marker?

"What's mind-boggling is you have unanimity in the House — tomorrow the Speaker could get a deal in the House on a number," Khanna said, adding that he believed at least 48 Democratic senators could also back that deal, and probably Manchin too.

"This is not progressive versus moderates," he said, "this is the entire Democratic Party and Joe Biden versus Kyrsten Sinema."

Khanna went on to say that no one appears to know what Sinema wants—not her colleagues, not the president, not even House moderates.

Strong words, but they also appear to be totally on target.

As Politico reported, Sinema has refused to go into detail on the budget bill until the bipartisan infrastructure plan she helped negotiate clears the House.

"During a private meeting with the president, Sinema made clear she's still not on board with the party's $3.5 trillion social spending plan and is hesitant to engage on some specifics until the bipartisan infrastructure package passes the House," wrote Politico.

Meanwhile, House progressives are committed to downing that infrastructure bill unless a firm agreement can be reached between the House, the Senate, and the White House on the Democrats-only budget bill.

"They need to come up with their counteroffer and then we sit down and negotiate from there," Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington State told NBC News' Sahil Kapur Wednesday afternoon.

As TPM's Josh Marshal points out, it's entirely possible that Sinema simply isn't enough of a policy savant to articulate what she wants done to the $3.5 trillion budget bill and why.

But armed with just enough talking points from powerful corporate lobbyists, Sinema could easily tank everything.

Whatever Sinema thinks she's doing, she appears to have already secured a primary challenge in her state. A group of Democratic Arizona organizers launched an effort on Wednesday to fund a would-be primary challenger to Sinema in 2024.

"Either Sinema votes to end the filibuster, or we fund a primary challenger," warned a fundraising page set up by a group called the "Future Primary Challenger of Kyrsten Sinema."

"If the existential stakes for working families, our democracy , and our planet don't move her, maybe existential political stakes will," tweeted Kai Newkirk, founder of the progressive grassroots organization For All.

Why Arizona Democrats Are Learning To Despise Kyrsten Sinema

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has committed two political sins this year that have decimated her standing with Arizona's Democratic voters. One—a vote against including a $15 minimum-wage hike in Democrats' pandemic relief package—left the indelible image of Sinema flashing her thumbs down on the Senate floor, punctuated by a sickly ironic curtsy as she denied several million Americans the chance to lift themselves out of poverty. Sinema was one of eight senators who caucus with Democrats to vote against inclusion of the minimum wage increase the pandemic bill.

In the Civiqs tracking poll, Sinema started out the minimum wage battle earlier this year with a 60-plus favorability among Arizona Democrats until around mid-February, when she began making known her intention to vote against its inclusion in the American Rescue Plan. By the time the Arizona senator came out the other side of that vote, her favorables among the state's Democratic voters had been cut nearly in half to about 33 percent.

But the less infamous point of ignominy that tanked Sinema's approvals among her state's Democratic voters was a function of her absence rather than her presence. After calling a vote for a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6 "critical," Sinema decided to just skip it anyway. The May 28 vote on the bipartisan commission, which had already cleared the House, failed in the Senate 54 - 35. The Senate vote required 60 "yeas" to beat a GOP filibuster and would have failed even if Sinema had decided to show up.

But to add insult to injury, a Sinema spokesperson offered that the Senator "would've voted yes" if she had been there.

Not surprisingly, that response failed to quell the controversy. The following week, Sinema gave it another unconvincing try while standing side-by-side with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas after touring migrant facilities in Tucson.

"I had a personal family matter," Sinema offered curtly, without elaborating further.

In the same press conference, Sinema re-upped her defense of the Senate filibuster rule, saying it "protects the democracy of our nation," despite the fact that the 60-vote threshold had just doomed a commission she declared "critical" and would have otherwise cleared the upper chamber with a simple majority.

In Civiqs tracking, Sinema emerged from the January 6 commission flap with a disastrous 18% favorability rating among Democrats. Her favorables with Republicans, however, ticked up nearly 10 points while also gaining a handful of points with independents, virtually offsetting her drop among Democratic voters.

The long and the short of it is, Democratic voters appear to have concluded that Sinema doesn't share their values, presently leaving her with a catastrophic 17 percent favorable to 65 percent unfavorable rating among them, according to Civiqs tracking.

Sinema may ultimately earn some good will among Arizona Democrats if both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Democrats-only jobs bill manage to reach President Joe Biden's desk. But depending on how those bills land with the public, Sinema's clear objections to several of the bill's most popular provisions might also chafe Democratic voters. Not only has Sinema opposed the popular prescription drug pricing provision, she is also reportedly lobbying against certain corporate and individual tax rate increases Democrats hope to use to fund their $3.5 trillion budget bill.

The New York Times writes Sinema "has privately told Senate Democratic colleagues that she is averse to the corporate and individual tax rate increases that both the House and Senate tax-writing committees had planned to use to help pay for the measure." At the same time, Sinema is holding high-dollar fundraisers with business groups that oppose having to pay those taxes, according to the Times. It's worth noting here that, for months, poll after poll has shown the idea of raising taxes on the nation's wealthiest corporations and individuals to fund Biden's jobs bills to be extremely popular. Simply put, it's what the American people want and it makes the investments even more popular than they already are.

At this point, Sinema's polling deficits with Democrats may be too dismal to overcome in a 2024 Democratic primary, no matter what she does. But so far, that doesn't appear to be keeping her up at night, either.

Pelosi Delays Infrastructure Vote As Congress Begins Critical Week

Washington (AFP) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed confidence a massive infrastructure bill will pass this week but acknowledged it would not get a Monday vote as planned, with fellow Democrats warning critical work remains to meet the party's deadlines.

Democrats have been scrambling to hammer out a landmark plan to upgrade the nation's roads and bridges, but are also under immense pressure to finalize a $3.5 trillion public investment package and fund the government to avert a looming shutdown -- all by September 30.

The week is among the most critical of President Joe Biden's tenure, with opposition Republicans digging in against his Build Back Better program that would invest in climate change policy, lower childcare and education costs for working families and create millions of jobs.

But Pelosi, despite her confidence that the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that has already cleared the Senate with bipartisan support will pass the House of Representatives "this week," hinted at potential quicksand ahead.

"I'm never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn't have the votes," the top Democrat in Congress told ABC Sunday talk show This Week, asked whether she will bring the infrastructure bill to the floor Monday as previously agreed.

"It may be tomorrow -- if we have the votes," she said. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Later in the day Pelosi informed her colleagues that she anticipates a vote on Thursday.

"You cannot choose the date," she added. "You have to go when you have the votes, in a reasonable time. And we will."

Biden told reporters on Sunday he was "optimistic" Pelosi would get the agenda through the house this week, adding "it's going to take the better part of the week."

Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues in a letter Saturday that they "must" pass both of Biden's huge spending bills, along with legislation that keeps the federal government operating into the next fiscal year beginning October 1.

"The next few days will be a time of intensity," she wrote.

'Irresponsible Beyond Words'

Pelosi is running into not only a buzzsaw of opposition from Republicans; Democratic progressives and moderates have made clear they need to see quickly exactly what goes in the $3.5 trillion bill.

"The votes aren't there, so I don't think she's going to bring it" to the floor Monday, congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the House progressives, told CNN's State of the Union, regarding the infrastructure bill.

House progressives have repeatedly warned that they won't green-light infrastructure without Build Back Better.

In order to get the historic spending bill to Biden's desk, Democrats are using a process called "reconciliation," which allows certain budget-related legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than 60 votes.

But moderate Senate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have expressed deep reservations about the huge price tag.

With the Senate evenly split 50-50, their votes would be critical to passing the bill -- something that Pelosi, herself a master vote-counter, is keenly aware of.

While all Democrats "overwhelmingly" support Biden's grand vision, it was "self-evident" that the final price tag for Build Back Better will be lowered, Pelosi said.

She also stressed the importance of funding the government to avoid a looming shutdown, and suspending the debt ceiling to allow federal agencies to make loan repayments.

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would accomplish both goals.

But Senate Republicans have balked over extending the Treasury Department's borrowing authority this time around, a position Pelosi described as "irresponsible beyond words."