‘I Feel Betrayed’: Sinema’s Volunteers, Staffers Are Fed Up After She Derails Voting Rights Bill

© REUTERS / Elizabeth FrantzU.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) leaves a basement office meeting with other senators including Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Angus King (I-ME) (not pictured) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 15, 2021
U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) leaves a basement office meeting with other senators including Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Angus King (I-ME) (not pictured) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., December 15, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.01.2022
On Wednesday, US Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voted against changing the filibuster, effectively killing Democrat’s most recent efforts in passing a voting rights legislation, a key priority for US President Joe Biden. For many of Sinema’s staff and volunteers, it has proven to be the last straw.
Despite Biden and other Democrats’ efforts to convince the black sheep of their party - Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) - to change their stance on the Senate filibuster rule, the two Democratic senators held firm and shot down the proposal. Democrats had hoped that once done away with the filibuster, it would allow their party to pass key voting bills,
"While I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country," Sinema said Thursday of last week.
Maria-Elena Dunn, who canvassed and volunteered for Sinema during her campaign in 2018, recently told VICE News she was “livid” over the lawmaker’s latest efforts.
“I can only call her a turncoat. I feel betrayed,” she stressed.
Toni Denis, who donated $3,000 to Sinema’s campaign in 2018, says Sinema’s voting for the filibuster was nothing more than a slap in the face.
“I’m crushed that she won’t support doing away with the filibuster, and especially that she won’t explain any of her decisions,” Denis told the outlet.
Sinema’s approval ratings with Democrats in Arizona first plummeted when she voted against raising the federal minimum wage. The Arizona lawmaker was one of eight members of the Senate Democratic caucus to vote down a $15 minimum wage, which was to be included in a COVID-19 relief package.
At the time, a video showed the senator giving a somewhat jovial thumbs down to the minimum wage initiative during a roll call vote inside the congressional chamber. In response to that particular incident, Rep.Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) tweeted, “No one should ever be this happy to vote against uplifting people out of poverty.”
Then in October 2021, support for Sinema took another nose-dive when five veterans who sat on her advisory council since 2019 resigned. After her refusal to back abolishing the filibuster, as well as her opposition to a $3.5 trillion social policy bill, the veterans then accused her of “hanging her constituents out to dry'' in a scathing letter, which was acquired by The New York Times.
“You have become one of the principal obstacles to progress, answering to big donors rather than your own people,” the veterans wrote. “We shouldn’t have to buy representation from you, and your failure to stand by your people and see their urgent needs is alarming.”
Arizona progressives spent months trying to convince Sinema to change the Senate’s legislative filibuster. For now, the rule is that a 60-vote majority is required to move most legislation through the chamber. Republicans have used this rule as a way to block Democrats’ bills, including those which enact or protect voter’s rights.
Another supporter of Sinema who has spoken out against the senator’s recent decisions is EMILY’s List, a decadesold national campaign group which focuses on backing female Democrats who support abortion rights. The group spent about $1.7 million on her last race.
“We have not endorsed or contributed to Sen. Sinema since her election in 2018,” The group wrote In a statement. “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.”
US Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) wearing a sweater that says Dangerous Creature while presiding over the US Senate on February 23, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.10.2021
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The group went on to clarify that they support free and fair elections as it is aligned with their pro-choice goals.
“We want to make it clear: if Sen. Sinema can not support a path forward for the passage of this legislation, we believe she undermines the foundations of our democracy, her own path to victory and also the mission of EMILY’s List, and we will be unable to endorse her moving forward,” they continued.
Now, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) has been having his phone ring with requests from Democrats to run against Sinema in 2024 - among those supporters are Sinema’s own Senate Democratic colleagues. Gallego has declined to tell CNN which senators in particular were hoping to back him in a primary challenge, but said it was “more than one.”
It’s not common for senators to back primary opposition against someone from their own party, but with tension breaking over Sinema’s filibuster decision, it may come as no surprise that Gallego is getting a preview of potential support.
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