Kysten Sinema is a name that has slipped from the headlines the past year or so, but she’s back in a big way today. Sinema, a Democrat, rose to prominence after defeating Martha McSally in Arizona’s 2018 Senate race. Of course, that is hardly much of an achievement as McSally managed to lose both of Arizona’s seats in the span of two years. Yet, Sinema has tried to carve out for herself a sort of maverick role in which she attempts to maintain some semblance of independence. I once joked that she’s basically the most conservative senator Arizona has seen in a decade, and I was only half joking (see Kyrsten Sinema Sure Seems Like the Most Conservative Senator AZ Has Had in a Decade).
Regardless, the question has always been how independent Sinema actually is. Would she stand up in the face of pressure from her own party, or would she fold and go along to get along? Perhaps we have an answer, at least on one front.
Sinema is taking off the table any discussion of her voting to nuke the filibuster.
"Kyrsten is against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster.”https://t.co/0wZD3dibEO
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) January 25, 2021
To this point, all the focus on the filibuster has been placed on Joe Manchin. The West Virginia Senator is on tape saying unequivocally that he would not vote to blow up the long-standing Senate institution. Despite that, he’s seemed to waffle on the issue the last week, not sounding nearly as resolute in his proclamation. That makes Sinema’s pledge all the more important. It gives cover to both Manchin and herself, allowing neither of them to be the deciding vote. That should earn Sinema plenty of good will back in Arizona, and it possibly keeps Manchin’s precarious political career afloat, though he’s almost certainly a dead man walking in 2024.
None of this can be making Chuck Schumer too happy. He’s already given up leverage by refusing to even negotiate over the filibuster with Mitch McConnell. If he were smart, he would strike a deal to preserve it in exchange for some Democrat priority knowing that it’s going to be preserved anyway. It’s basically free money for Schumer to play with. Yet, Schumer is too cowardly in the face of his own party’s pressure to make that kind of cunning move. Meanwhile, Sinema and Manchin are undercutting him anyway.
I do not think Sinema would make such a definitive statement on the filibuster if she weren’t intending to live up to it. She knows the line she toes in Arizona, and she wants to keep a certain perception among voters. This is all good news for Republicans hoping to see some kind of bulwark hold the next two years.
In the end, Sinema gains nothing by bending the knee to a New York Democrat in this situation so let the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the left begin.
(Please follow me on Twitter…@bonchieredstate)