WASHINGTON — The mailings sent by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) paint a picture that shows a rebel politician who delivers results.
“Independent Leader.” “Straight Talk.” “Bipartisan.” “Just like John McCain.” Ask her to continue fighting. “
“Kyrsten Sinema reached across the aisle to pass The Infrastructure and Jobs Act,” says one mailer obtained by NBC News, adding that because of Sinema’s leadership, “Arizona will receive” $110 billion to boost roads and bridges, enhanced broadband access and more. The mailers give a glimpse of the iconoclastic political identity Sinema is creating in Arizona while she sits at center of an intraparty conflict on Capitol Hill about President Joe Biden’s agenda. The mailers also show how invested Sinema is in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that she co-wrote .
But the mailers boast about $110 billion that may never get to Arizona, because that bill that hasn’t yet become law. It is unlikely that it will pass. Although it has passed the Senate, it is being held up by House Democrats , until Sinema, along with Senator Joe Manchin, D.W.Va., commits to vote for a robust safety net package that includes Biden’s domestic priorities.
Sinema has given no such assurance, and in recent days and weeks, frustration among Democrats toward her has grown. Sinema made a sharp statement Saturday slamming the House for delaying a vote on her bill. She called it an “ineffective stunt” to gain leverage over another proposal by some lawmakers.
Faiz Sharkir, an adviser of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), said that Sinema’s anger justifies the strategy to delay the vote on her infrastructure bill until centrists such as her can reach a deal on the major social-policy bill.
“The angrier they get, the more obvious it seems that their desire for a reconciliation bill is nil,” Shakir said. This supports the strategy of getting them to say yes Rep. Ruben Gallego, a fellow Arizona Democrat said that his colleague could be more open-minded.
” When you’re negotiating with essentially five people at this point, transparency does not help,” Gallego said to NBC News. “And I hope we can reach a point where we all can work together, trust one another, and pass a bill which really benefits the country. “
Sinema’s office declined to discuss the price tag or policies that she supports. She said she will not negotiate through the media. According to a spokesperson, she had met with Senator Chuck Schumer and Vice President Biden multiple times to share her opinions.
Sinema’s reticence on the multitrillion-dollar bill led to a stalemate this week over House Democrats’ hopes of passing her infrastructure bill. It was put up for a vote by Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday. House centrists wanted it, but the progressives resisted and threatened to kill it. Both bills are now being delayed while negotiations for a deal continue.
Manchin made public his counteroffer on Thursday, revealing $1.5 trillion in spending and guardrails for social programs. He also proposed higher taxes on the rich. Sinema, by contrast, has stayed mum about her demands, but her office said Thursday afternoon in a tweet that she “continues to engage directly in good-faith discussions” with party leaders “to find common ground. “
“President Biden, his team, and Senator Schumer, were fully aware of Senator Sinema’s priorities, concerns, and ideas,” her office stated.
First elected to the Senate in 2018, Sinema doesn’t face re-election until 2024. But some Democrats with deep pockets are already plotting to replace her in the party primary if she doesn’t change course and get behind Biden’s agenda. One prospect has been mentioned is Gallego.
Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), gave a passionate speech Friday about getting things done. He also spoke of the benefits that Biden’s agenda would bring to his state. The House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) remarked that he should run for higher office.
” I am tempted to comment upon a possible Senate candidate,” Jeffries stated, according to three people in the room. The comment, widely interpreted as a dig at Sinema, was met with applause by two sources.
Democrats have grown nervous by reports in The New York Times and Politico that Sinema has privately said she won’t support increases in individual or corporate tax rates, and that she opposes the party’s plan to lower prescription drug costs by letting Medicare negotiate prices. This opposition has been long encouraged by the pharmaceutical industry. When NBC News asked Sinema about the reports, her office refused to comment.
Biden said Friday to House Democrats behind closed doors that he had spent “tens and hours” talking with Sinema, according the Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), who was present in the room.
The pro-Sinema mailers were sent from New Jersey by the centrist group Center Forward. This group has ties with the Blue Dog Coalition, a group that Sinema was a member of during her time in the chamber.
Sinema supporters say that her criticisms should not be surprised considering her track record in Congress, where she voted against Nancy Pelosi as the Democratic leader and had a tendency to split with her party.
Arizona is a state once dominated in part by Republicans. It voted to elect two Democratic senators and a Democratic president over the past three years. Some party organizers in Arizona fear that if Sinema shrinks or sinks the reconciliation package, it could demoralize the party base and hurt her colleague, Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., in his 2022 re-election bid.
“I don’t have any sense of what the hell she’s doing,” said one Democratic operative based in Arizona who supported her 2018 campaign and asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
“She’s pissing off all the activists,” the operative said. “If this fails there will be an eruption of anger like nothing I have ever seen.” “