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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: kyrsten sinema

Senate Democrats Will Retain Majority Despite Sinema's Sudden Shift

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced Friday that she changed her affiliation from the Democratic Party to independent. But she indicated that this move would not functionally change the new Senate's 51-49 Democratic majority.

"Like a lot of Arizonans, I have never fit perfectly in either national party," Sinema wrote in an Arizona Republic op-ed. "Becoming an independent won't change my work in the Senate; my service to Arizona remains the same."

While Sinema did not promise to formally caucus with the Democratic majority on Friday, she indicated she plans to continue to get her committee assignments from the Democrats and told Politico, "I don't anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure." She also explicitly told the paper that she will not join the Republican caucus.

If she is counted as a member of a 51-49 Democratic majority or forms her own bloc in a 50-49-1 Democratic majority, control of the Senate will not be impacted and Democrats will still likely hold an outright majority on committees and the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed that Sinema would keep her committee assignments with the Democratic caucus.

"I believe she's a good and effective Senator and am looking forward to a productive session in the new Democratic majority Senate," he said in a press statement. "We will maintain our new majority on committees, exercise our subpoena power, and be able to clear nominees without discharge votes."

Two other current senators — Maine's Angus King and Vermont's Bernie Sanders — identify as independents but caucus with the Democrats and get their committee assignments as Democrats.

In the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats held every single Senate seat they controlled and gained an open Republican seat in Pennsylvania. This gave their caucus a 51 seat majority, rather than the current Senate's 50-50 split, where Vice President Kamala Harris breaks ties in favor of the Democrats.

Sinema has clashed with most of the Democratic Party in the past on issues such as filibuster reform and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She has voted with President Joe Biden more than 93 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.

In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre praised Sinema as a "key partner on the historic legislation President Biden has championed over the last 20 months," and observed, "We understand that her decision to register as an independent in Arizona does not change the new Democratic majority control of the Senate, and we have every reason to expect that we will continue to work successfully with her."

The move could have ramifications for Arizona's 2024 Senate election.

Sinema has not said whether she plans to seek another term. If she had remained a Democrat, she may have faced a primary challenge from Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has frequently criticized her record. As an independent, she can run in the general election without participating in a party primary.

The last Democratic senator to leave the party to become an independent was Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, in 2006.

In 2003, the Hartford Courant covered an anti-Lieberman protest organized by Sinema during his presidential campaign visit to Arizona.

"He's a shame to Democrats," Sinema, then a social worker, told the paper. "I don't even know why he's running. He seems to want to get Republicans voting for him — what kind of strategy is that?"

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

The Audacious Lies Of That Cynical Senator Sinema

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema could scarcely wait three days after the Georgia Senate runoff, which cemented Democratic control of the United States Senate, to announce that she no longer considers herself a member of that party and has changed her registration to independent. A politician who often seems obsessed with drawing attention to herself, the Arizona senator no doubt reveled in the publicity blitz ignited by her switch.

It would be refreshing to hear Sinema — who says she is "sometimes too honest" — speak candidly about this choice, which freshly enraged former supporters who have devoted energy and money to advance her career over the past two decades. But that would have required her to utter some unflattering truths about herself, and she isn't going there.

Instead, Sinema claimed she had "never really fit into a box of any political party," although she has presented herself as a progressive if pragmatic Democrat for the past 18 years without excessive discomfort. Having launched her political career with losing campaigns for local office in Phoenix, she left the Green Party behind to run for a state legislative seat as a Democrat in 2004 — and squeezed herself into that partisan box to eventually win three terms in Congress and then her first Senate victory in 2018.

The public identity that Sinema shaped during her rise to prominence — an open bisexual, committed feminist and environmentalist, strongly influenced by her impoverished childhood — is not one that the Republican Party would have tolerated, let alone celebrated. If she no longer "fits" in the Democratic Party, perhaps that's because she has drifted so far from the progressive values she once proclaimed. Anyone who watched her vote down a minimum wage increase with an irritating flourish on the Senate floor could see how she had changed.

But now she tells her constituents, in an essay for the Arizona Republic, that she felt compelled to reject the "rigid partisanship" she attributes to both major parties, which she decries for allowing the "loudest, most extreme voices to determine their respective priorities."

"In catering to the fringes," her complaint continues, "neither party has demonstrated much tolerance for diversity of thought. Bipartisan compromise is seen as a rarely acceptable last resort, rather than the best way to achieve lasting progress. Payback against the opposition party has replaced thoughtful legislating.

"Americans are told that we have only two choices — Democrat or Republican — and that we must subscribe wholesale to policy views the parties hold, views that have been pulled further and further toward the extremes."

As falsehoods go, this one is audacious, especially when uttered by an elected official from Arizona, where there is a large and menacing gang of real extremists who seek to thwart democracy, promote insane conspiracy theories and espouse violent white nationalism. None of them are in the Democratic Party.

Indeed, the Arizona Democratic Party includes no extremists of any stripe, only mainstream politicians whose views can hardly be described as radical. There is no Arizona Democrat who merits comparison with the other party's midterm slate of proto-fascists and election deniers; and none who deserves to be mentioned alongside the neo-Nazi state Sen. Wendy Rogers or the white nationalist Rep. Paul Gosar.

To babble about "both sides" in Arizona, as if the two parties are the same, is a nauseating lie — and of course Sinema knows it.

She also knows that the Democratic Party's national leaders are notoriously tolerant of different viewpoints, to the annoyance of some Democratic members of Congress. Indeed, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a longtime member of the Progressive Caucus, has been criticized for his working relationship with caucus moderates such as Rep. Josh Gottheimer. In the Senate, members of both parties regularly work on specific bills across the aisle, just as Sinema has done. And then there's President Joe Biden, whose insistence on reaching for bipartisan agreement won landmark deals on infrastructure and gun safety — while attracting abuse from the far Left and the far Right.

So why is Sinema lying? Could it be that the unadulterated truth isn't the self-flattering tale she would like us to believe?

Here is a more plausible narrative: Sinema's departures from Democratic principle have made her extremely unpopular within her own party, provoking a primary challenge from Rep. Ruben Gallego when she faces reelection in 2024. Her identity and voting record preclude her becoming a Republican, much as she seems attracted to them. Her approval ratings are dismal across voter categories in both parties. So, she has reinvented herself as an "independent," hoping to navigate a path between two opponents in 2024.

To pursue that opportunistic scheme means walking away from the party that stands for democracy, social decency, and the rule of law, and allowing the party that now represents none of those ideals to inch closer to power. Her complaints about "divisive, negative politics" would almost sound naive — if they weren't so cynical.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Sinema Scoffs At ‘D.C. Solutions’ To Raging Gun Violence

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), one of two major roadblocks to Democrats passing President Joe Biden’s top agenda items including gun control, just one day after an 18-year old gunman massacred 21 people in Texas (including 19 elementary school children) made clear she does not believe in a federal solution to the gun violence that plagues America.

The United States is the only country in the world with a gun crisis of this magnitude. The leading cause of death for children and teens is now a gun.

Republicans allowed the 1994 federal ban on semi-automatic weapons to expire in 2004. A 2019 study found “Mass-shooting fatalities were 70% less likely to occur during the federal ban period.”

Senator Sinema appeared to disagree with that study in remarks to reporters late Wednesday morning.

“I asked her if she was willing to set aside the filibuster,” Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman reports. “She said she didn’t believe ‘that DC solutions are realistic here.'”

The federal assault weapons ban was a “DC solution.”

Sinema also told Sherman that “despite the fact that there is always heated rhetoric here in DC, I do think there’s an opportunity for us to actually have real conversations and try and do something. I think the conversation across America is very different than it is here.”

Polls show that up to 90 percent of Americans want Congress to pass a background check bill, which the House already has but Senate Republicans refuse to allow. Eliminating the 60-vote threshold in the filibuster might allow that legislation to pass, as it almost did under President Barack Obama, with 54 votes.

“People at home all across America are just, they’re scared,” Sinema added, suggesting that is no reason to make changes to the way the Senate works, or to pass gun control legislation. “They want us to do something.”

Sinema committed to no action other than “to start having conversations again with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to determine whether or not there’s something we can actually do to help increase safety and protect kids across the country.”

The House has already passed multiple bills the Senate could take up and pass — or at least get Senators on the record.

Sen. Sinema’s reluctance to do anything substantive stands in clear contrast to her Arizoan Democratic colleague in the House. Rep. Ruben Gallego, long rumored to be a potential primary opponent when Sinema is up for re-election, on Tuesday night blasted Sinema and others, like “baby killer” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), standing in the way of gun control.





Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

'Needs To Resign': Sinema Torched For 'Stupidest Speech By A Democrat'

Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is under fire after delivering a lengthy speech on the floor of the Senate declaring her intractable refusal to even consider any carve out of the Jim Crow era 60-vote majority filibuster threshold in order to pass voting rights legislation. Democrats across the board are expressing their outrage – not only for her words but for her timing. Sinema opted to deliver her speech as President Joe Biden came to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Democrats, hoping to get their support on a way to pass voting rights legislation.

“We must address the disease itself, the disease of division to protect our democracy,” Sinema told the mostly-Republican audience. “It cannot be achieved by one party alone.”

“We need robust, sustained strategies that put aside party labels and focus on our democracy because these challenges are bigger than party affiliation. We must commit to a long term approach as serious as the problems we seek to solve. One that prioritizes listening and understanding, one that embraces making progress on shared priorities and finding common ground on issues where we hold differing and diverse views.”

The two voting rights bills – which Sinema claimed to support – have the support of the majority of Americans, and without the filibuster 60-vote requirement. Her call for “finding common ground” that she claims is necessary ignores the very will of the people she was elected to serve. Instead, she is seeking the approval of just Republican Party lawmakers.

Democrats of all stripes, from political experts to casual social media commentators blasted her.

“I say this as her former friend and the person who first gave her national television exposure on @msnbc,” wrote Keith Olbermann. “@SenatorSinema needs to resign or be removed from office immediately. Rather than decreasing ‘division’ in this country her action guarantees it.”

The Atlantic’s Molly Jong-Fast suggested Sen. Sinema was putting on a show. “Why is Kyrsten Sinema fake cry talking?” she asked.

MSNBC’s Lawrence O'Donnell echoed that thought:


Jamelle Bouie, the noted New York Times opinion columnist and CBS News analyst wrote, “if you take it seriously — and, to be clear, i do not — Sinema’s position is akin to being against politics themselves.”

Voting rights expert Ari Berman:

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent:

David Rothkopf, the professor of international relations, political scientist, Daily Beast contributing columnist, and CEO of the Rothkopf Group was unflinching in his criticism.

“Don’t be tempted into the sports TV-type debates that ask ‘Who is worse, Sinema or Manchin?'” he tweeted. “They’re both despicable & are essentially throwing democracy & their party under the bus to serve the special interests to whom they are beholden. (And yes, the entire GOP is even worse.)”

“Translation for those who don’t speak Beltway,” Rothkopf added. “Sinema saying she supports voting rights legislation but does not support the filibuster changes needed to pass it means…she opposes voting rights legislation (and lacks the character to own her position).”

Attorney, political commentator, and former Souith Carolina state lawmaker Bakari Sellers mocked Sinema.

Malcolm Nance, the intelligence, terrorism, and extremism expert said Senator Sinema “just put a knife in the heart of Democracy. My heart breaks how easily she was bought to support the Republican coup.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sinema Stabs Biden -- And Her Own Party -- In The Back In Floor Speech

Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema gave a floor speech in the Senate Thursday that has been unequaled in cringeworthiness since Sen. Susan Collins stood there and told the nation that she was going to vote for Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court because he deeply revered precedent, especially when it came to abortion rights. We all know how that turned out.

Sinema’s floor remarks were a stab in the back to President Joe Biden (and all her Democratic colleagues) moments before Biden was scheduled to meet with her. She insisted that she really does support the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights bills, but that they “treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not fully address the diseases and while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division affecting our country.” Meaning she would not help Republicans break the filibuster in order to pass these bills she supports. Because both sides. Literally. She both-sides-ed Jan. 6 and the Big Lie. She doubled down on that, literally blaming Democratic leadership for not working harder to get Republicans to work with them.

“I wish there had been a more serious effort on the part of Democratic Party lines to sit down with the other party and genuinely discuss how to reforge common ground on these issues,” she said. Never mind that the Freedom to Vote Act was entirely rewritten by Joe Manchin to get Republicans on board and every single one of them refused. And when Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to bring the bill to the floor, Republicans filibustered the motion to proceed to it—they didn’t even allow the Senate to debate it.

She might as well have announced her defection to the Republicans in that speech, because in practicality that’s what she did. She’s supporting Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s veto of these bills and everything else in Biden’s legislative agenda, essentially. She’s trying to call it principle about the sanctity of the filibuster, but she had no problem voting just last month to break the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling. Which makes her pretty much a Republican. She’s got the lying and the trolling down pat.

Really, what Gabe Ortiz tweeted:

This, plus Thursday’s announcement by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) that he has COVID and the absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to an undisclosed illness means that the plan to expedite the voting rights bills on the Senate floor will have to be delayed, at the least. Schumer can still force a debate on the bills through the procedure Democrats crafted, but it can’t succeed.

All that said, we need a palate cleanser after Sinema. Here is Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego speaking on the House floor immediately following Sinema’s Senate speech.

On January 6 we witnessed a violent coup attempt in our Capitol fueled by the Big Lie. Our country continues to face a slow-moving coup in the form of voter suppression. I’ve seen first hand in my home state of Arizona voter suppression laws targeting people of color and a state senate that would rather waste taxpayer money on a sham audit instead of upholding our most sacred democratic right, the right to vote.The Freedom to Vote/John Lewis Voting Rights Act is critical to protecting the vote in my state and states across the country where restrictive laws are being put into place to strip people of the right to vote. Arizona will stand strong together this weekend. Thousands will gather this Saturday in Phoenix for democracy and voting rights. Passing this bill today answers their call by guaranteeing access to democracy to every Arizonan.
Today, the House showed where it stands. We won’t shrink from protecting our democracy and the voting rights of all Americans. It’s past time for the U.S Senate, and Senator Sinema to do the same.

Thank you, Gallego. That kind of honesty and clarity is what Arizona—not to mention the nation—needs from its elected officials.

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Warning Against Autocracy, Biden Urges Senate To Drop Filibuster, Pass Voting Rights

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

President Joe Biden implored the Senate to reject the filibuster rule and pass landmark voting rights legislation on Tuesday, saying that recent efforts by pro-Trump Republicans to suppress voters and subvert the popular vote were out of step with American history.

“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will make a turning point in this nation’s history,” Biden said, speaking at Atlanta University Center in Georgia. “The issue is will we choose democracy over autocracy? Light over shadow? Justice over injustice? I know where I stand… The question is where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?”

“There’s one thing every senator, every American should remember,” Biden continued. “History has never been kind to those who sided with voter suppression over voters’ rights… It will be less kind to those who side with election subversion. So I ask every elected official in America, how do you want to be remembered? The consequential moments in history present a choice.”

Biden’s Tuesday speech was his most forceful yet in support of passing sweeping new federal legislation that would fortify the right to vote after a decade where Republican-majority state legislatures and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority have acted in their respective spheres to roll back voting options and federal authority to defend voting.

There are two bills before the Senate. The Freedom to Vote Act, would, among its provisions, blunt state-led efforts to restrict mail-in or absentee voting—a widespread response to 2020’s most popular way that Democrats voted, make Election Day a holiday, and block redistricting that dilutes minority representation. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the Justice Department’s authority under the Voting Rights Act to overrule new laws or procedures that limit participation in jurisdictions with histories of electoral discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court eviscerated the Justice Department’s enforcement powers in 2013.

The bills have repeatedly passed the House but have run into roadblocks in the Senate, where the Republicans have not even allowed debate to begin. Biden said that intransigence, as well as the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes for a debate to proceed, have degraded the body’s character and held voting rights hostage to a power-hungry minority.

“The filibuster is not used by Senate Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart,” Biden said. “The filibuster has been weaponized and abused. While the state legislative assault on voting rights is simple; all you need in your [state] house and senate is a pure majority [to pass bills.] In the United States Senate, it takes a supermajority, 60 votes, even to get a vote.”

“State legislators can pass anti-voting laws with simple majorities,” he continued. “If they can do that, then the United States Senate should be able to protect voting rights by a simple majority. Today, I’m making it clear, to protect our democracy I support changing the Senate rules—whichever way they need to change—to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.”

It is unclear whether Biden will be able to convince the foremost Democratic holdouts, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Krysten Sinema of Arizona, to carve out an exception in the Senate’s filibuster rules for voting rights legislation. The White House hopes to force the issue by next Monday, January 17, which is the federal holiday honoring civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Earlier in his speech Biden said pro-Trump legislators, in statehouses and Congress, were bent on taking the country into an era where authoritarian rule would overshadow representative democracy. He explicitly accused the GOP’s Trump faction of resurrecting white supremacy.

“Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion,” Biden said. “It’s no longer about who gets to vote [the mid-20th century’s struggle centered around voter registration]. It’s about making it harder to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote, and whether your vote counts at all.”

“It’s not hyperbole. This is a fact,” he continued. “Look, this matters to all of us. The goal of the former president and his allies is to disenfranchise anyone who votes against them; simple as that. The facts won’t matter. Your vote won’t matter. They’ll just decide what they want, and then do it. That’s the kind of power you see in totalitarian states, not in democracies.”

Hey, Democrats: Get Off 'Planet Woke' And Unite Behind Biden

Two tiresome realities about being president of the United States: first, everybody blames you for things over which you have little or no control: such as the worldwide price of oil, and international shipping schedules. Should there be too few electronic gee-gaws on store shelves to pacify American teenagers this Christmas, it will be Joe Biden’s fault.

Second, everybody gives you advice, whether you ask for it or not. Everywhere you look, Democrats and Democratically-inclined pundits are tempted to panic. “The cold reality for Biden,” writes New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait “is that his presidency is on the brink of failure.” A return to Trumpism, and essentially the end of American democracy, strikes Chait as altogether likely.

Everybody cites Biden’s “plunging” or “nosediving” poll numbers, although they’ve held steady at roughly 43 percent even since pretty much since the news media’s collective freakout over Afghanistan. Definitely not good, but still better than, well, Donald Trump’s, who hovered permanently around 40 percent. And that was before he raised a mob to sack the U.S. Capitol.

Chait mainly blames congressional Democrats, specifically the preening and posturing of the Democratic left, along with the stonewalling of “centrists unable to conceive of their job in any terms save as valets for the business elite.” In short, Senators Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema. He notes that when Manchin goes home to consult his West Virginia constituents, he meets the Chamber of Commerce at the Greenbrier golf resort.

When in Washington, Sen. Manchin lives aboard Almost Heaven, his 60-foot yacht —some distance from the coal mines. Sinema has shifted from campaigning as a trendy leftist to expressing tender concerns for the well-being of, yes, Arizona’s Chamber of Commerce. Between them, the two Democratic Senators have the capacity to cripple or kill President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plans to make life better for working Americans.

And if they do, Biden will get blamed. It comes with the territory.

By any rational measure, meanwhile, the U.S. economy is booming. In late November, for example, new unemployment claims fell to the lowest level in 52 years. If you’re like most Americans—Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike—that’s probably news to you. You may not even believe it.

“Given the U.S.’s steady job growth,” Chait comments. “nobody can ascertain exactly why the public has turned so sour so fast. Biden is like a patient wasting away from some undiagnosable disease.”

Actually, I think the all-too diagnosable psychological miasma of Covid lingers even among fully-vaccinated, for whom normal life has pretty much returned. But more about that later.

Expressing similar concerns from further left on the ideological spectrum is Ryan Grim of The Intercept. “IT’S NOT JUST WHITE PEOPLE,” Grim’s analysis is headlined, “DEMOCRATS ARE LOSING NORMAL VOTERS OF ALL RACES.” Basically, he too blames left-wing culture warriors speaking the other-worldly cant of academia. They’d do far better, he argues with “candidates who focus on…economic issues but don’t talk like juniors at Oberlin.”

No kidding. Maybe the dumbest political slogan in recent American history, as I’ve written before, is “Defund the Police.” Without exception, and nationwide, every Democratic candidate espousing the idea not only lost last November, but lost big. Buffalo, Seattle, Austin, Philadelphia, from sea to shining sea. Even in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered.

And why? Well, imagine yourself a Black parent in an inner-city neighborhood. Bullying, condescending cops can be aggravating and worse. But well-armed street gangs shooting up whole neighborhoods are an existential crisis.

Existential as in: They are killing people in their own homes.

Defund the police? What planet do you live on?

Planet “Woke” in all too many cases. Or, as Grim puts it, “Democratic elites are creating conflict within the working class while protecting their own class and cultural interests.” Left-wing imagineers, fantasizing about a revolution that’s never coming. President Biden could do worse than to pick a fight with these Froot Loops—low-hanging Froot Loops at that.

Then there are the Republicans, a party rapidly morphing into a Jonestown-like death cult. Not figuratively, mind you. Literally.

Covid vaccine mandates, that is, public health requirements that citizens accept what’s essentially a miracle cure to protect themselves and their neighbors from a deadly, transmissible disease are deemed “tyranny” and “communism” by Republican politicians.

As a direct result, their constituents are dying. While fully-vaccinated Fox News celebrities broadcast denialist propaganda—the jab is a condition of their employment—data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that unvaccinated individuals are currently five times more likely to test positive from the virus and thirteen times more likely to die.

The omicron variant appears unlikely to make things better.

In a saner political time, you’d think a party doing everything to resist the president’s efforts to control a deadly disease outbreak would be ill-advised to expect Covid survivors’s support.

But that’s not the world we live in.