PHOENIX – A rift between Senator Kyrsten Sinema and fellow Democrats back home in Arizona deepened Saturday when state party Ms. Sinema formally reprimanded for refusing to change Senate filibuster rules to pass sweeping voting rights legislation.
The party’s board of directors’ disapproval was symbolic, but it crystallized a growing sense of anger and frustration among liberal activists and Democratic voters directed at Ms Sinema.
They accuse Ms. Sinema, a first-term senator, of obstructing important parts of President Biden’s agenda, and have vowed to withhold donations and look for a liberal primary challenger when she is re-elected in two years. Activists have staged protests outside her office and have started a hunger strike to urge Ms Sinema to lend her support to changing the Senate rules so that voting rights legislation can be passed with a simple majority of 100 senators instead of the 60 votes required by Senate rules.
But she has steadfastly declined, reiterating her opposition to the filibuster’s removal in a Jan. 13 speech on the Senate floor, arguing that the parliamentary tactic “has been repeatedly used to guard against wild swings in federal policy.”
Ms Sinema said she supported Democratic voting rights legislation but believed that abolishing the filibuster would exacerbate political divisions in America.
The opposition of Ms. Sinema and Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia to changing the 60-vote threshold required in the Senate to advance key legislation has Democrats’ hopes of passing federal voting legislation, so good as doomed.
Arizona Democratic Chairman Raquel Terán said Saturday that the party’s board of directors had voted to disapprove over “Ms. Sinema’s failure to do whatever it takes to ensure the health of democracy.”
Ms Terán said voting rights were already under threat in Arizona, citing Republican proposals to limit postal voting and a much-criticized Republican-led audit of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County, home of Phoenix and 60 percent of the voters. registered state. voters. Democrats nationally cite a barrage of Republican legislation targeting voting rules, as well as vote counting and certifying as a fundamental threat to American democracy.
“The consequences of failing to pass federal legislation protecting their voting rights are too great and far-reaching,” Ms Terán said in a statement.
Hannah Hurley, a spokeswoman for Ms. Sinema, said in a statement that Ms Sinema had been consistent in her opposition to changing the filibuster.
“Kyrsten has always promised Arizonans that she would be an independent voice for the state — not for any of the political parties,” said Ms. Hurley. “She has delivered for Arizonans and has always been honest about where she stands.”
Arizona’s other senator, Mark Kelly, also a Democrat, said last week he would support weakening filibuster rules to pass voting rights legislation.
Ms. Sinema, once a Green Party-affiliated activist, has won praise from Republicans and outraged Democrats alike for declaring her own party a senator representing a deeply divided swing state.
Because she is censored by her own party, she joins a club that includes former Senator John McCain, former Senator Jeff Flake, and incumbent Republican governor of the state, Doug Ducey, all of whom have been censored by Arizona’s Republican State Party.
Barrett Marson, a Republican political strategist, said those disapprovals of prominent Arizona Republicans by their own parties had little effect, and that he doubted the disapproval would only hurt Ms. Sinema’s political fortune. But he said Ms Sinema’s problems go much deeper than the disapproval.
“The disapproval in itself means absolutely nothing,” said Mr. marson. “It’s a worthless move. However, Senator Sinema certainly has a broader problem than just a disapproval of the party faithful.”
Those issues include strong discontent among Democratic voters, who have indicated they may prefer a liberal alternative to Ms. Sinema, such as Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Phoenix congressman who some activists hope to win a primary.
The fundraising group Emily’s List, a strong supporter of Ms. Sinema in her 2018 Senate election, has also threatened to withdraw its support, and she has registered a dwindling number among her Democratic base in recent polls.
A new poll of Arizona voters conducted this month, but not yet released, by OH Predictive Insights, a polling and research firm in Phoenix, found a 30-point gap in support of the Arizona senators among Democrats. While 74 percent of Democrats said they had a favorable opinion of Mr Kelly, only 42 percent of Democrats felt the same about Ms Sinema.
At the same time, the survey also found some evidence that Ms Sinema could also be vulnerable among the wider electorate. Overall, voters by a margin of nine points said they viewed her unfavorably, while being about evenly split on their opinion of Mr. kelly.
“To be under all this pressure for so long, and she hasn’t wavered — you have to give a little credit for that,” said Mike Noble, head of research at OH Predictive Insights. “But she won’t be on many people’s Christmas card lists next year.”