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Kyrsten Sinema

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) attends an event hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix on May 17, 2019. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc)

While Roadblocking Party Agenda, Sinema Absconds to Europe for Fundraising

"She might as well start fundraising for McConnell at this point."

Jake Johnson

With President Joe Biden's popular legislative agenda hanging in the balance largely due to her obstruction, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema left the country this week to raise campaign cash in Europe—a trip that was reported as new polling showed she is completely underwater with Arizona voters.

"⁦She's not only endangering her own reelection, but the reelection of Dems across the board."

According to survey results released Thursday by the progressive polling outfit Data for Progress, 70% of likely Democratic primary voters in Arizona disapprove of Sinema's job performance and overwhelmingly prefer candidates floated as potential primary challengers—a sign that she's poised to lose her seat in 2024, assuming she runs for reelection.

Infuriated by Sinema's conduct throughout the reconciliation talks, Arizona activists who helped elect the Democratic senator are already laying the groundwork for a primary in an effort to ensure she doesn't win another six-year term.

"While 2024 may seem a long way away, the damage Sinema is doing is happening right now, and she’s acting this way because she thinks she won’t face political consequences," political strategist Steve Phillips wrote in a column for The Nation on Wednesday. "In fact, she thinks these actions will add up to electoral success. But her math is wrong, as is her moral compass."

In a summary of its new findings, Data for Progress noted that "Arizona Democratic primary voters say they would be more likely to support a candidate who votes in favor of every major provision of the Build Back Better plan we tested."

"From universal pre-K to expanding Medicare benefits," the group said, "Arizona voters—those Sinema would be courting in a 2024 primary—express they are more likely to support candidates who back these Build Back Better agenda items by wide-ranging margins."

Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, warned Thursday that by threatening tank Biden's popular Build Back Better reconciliation proposal, Sinema putting both her own political career and her party's fragile control of Congress at risk.

"She's not only endangering her own reelection, but the reelection of Dems across the board—thereby making it easier for the MAGA-hijacked GOP to regain power in '22," Epting argued on Twitter, pointing to the upcoming midterm elections.

Responding to Sinema's trip to Europe in the middle of negotiations over the reconciliation bill that she's holding up, Epting quipped, "⁦She might as well start fundraising for [Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell at this point."

The New York Times reported Thursday that it's unclear whether Sinema's Europe trip this week was "at the urging" of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a party fundraising arm. The Arizona senator's office, the Times noted, "declined to say how long she would be abroad, what countries she was visiting, how the trip was being paid for, and whether she was doing any additional fundraising for her own campaign."

The lack of transparency surrounding Sinema's latest fundraising jaunt resembles the Arizona senator's persistent refusal to publicly explain her specific objections to the Build Back Better package, the details of which are still being ironed out as conservative Democrats attempt to scale the package back—against the will of 75% of Democratic voters.

News reports in recent weeks have indicated that Sinema—who has received campaign donations from some of the corporate groups lobbying against the reconciliation package—opposes any tax hikes on the rich and large businesses, has issues with Democrats' drug-pricing reform plan, and wants to slash $100 billion from the bill's proposed climate outlays.

"We're waiting for the two of them to agree with each other and then to submit a counterproposal," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), said in an appearance on CNN Wednesday, referring to Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), another major obstacle to passage of the Build Back Better Act.

"I'm not sure why it's taking so long," Jayapal added.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday, members of the CPC's executive board outlined the caucus' top priorities and noted that—unlike their conservative counterparts—progressives "have been clear about our goals for this legislation."

"Specifically," the letter reads, "the CPC settled on five core priority areas: 1) strengthening the care economy with child care, paid leave, and investments in home- and community-based care; 2) investing in affordable housing; 3) reforming Medicare to lower prescription drug prices, while expanding the earned benefits to include vision, dental, and hearing benefits for our seniors; 4) meaningfully tackling the climate crisis; and 5) keeping our promise to pursue necessary immigration reform that benefits our economy and budget."

"Much has been made in recent weeks about the compromises necessary to enact this transformative agenda," the letter continued. "We have been told that we can either adequately fund a small number of investments or legislate broadly, but only make a shallow, short-term impact. We would argue that this is a false choice."

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