Arizona Democrats threaten “no confidence” vote against Sinema as she blocks tax hikes

Sinema said to oppose tax hikes on wealthy and corporations to pay for health care, child care, climate policy

By Igor Derysh
Published September 27, 2021 1:24PM (EDT)
Kyrsten Sinema (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Kyrsten Sinema (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Arizona Democratic Party on Saturday passed a resolution threatening a no-confidence vote against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., if she does not support the party's agenda and the elimination of the filibuster.

More than 80% of the party voted in favor of the resolution, according to Democratic organizer Kai Newkirk, which pledged to "officially go on the record" with a vote of no confidence if Sinema does not reverse her support for the filibuster, which it described as a "Jim Crow relic," or "continues to delay, disrupt, or votes to gut" President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion spending plan. More than 90% of the Arizona Democratic Party State Committee voted in May to support ending the filibuster, which they say is necessary to pass Democrats' voting rights legislation and the PRO Act, which would protect workers trying to unionize their workplaces.

If Sinema does not meet the demands, the resolution authorizes state party leaders to issue a "formal letter of censure to Senator Sinema with the clear understanding she could potentially lose the support of the ADP in 2024."

Asked if Sinema wanted to comment on the resolution, a spokesperson told Forbes' Andrew Solender, "We do not."

Many Arizona activists who helped elect Sinema in 2018 feel let down by the senator, who has thrown up repeated roadblocks to her party's agenda.

"The Arizonans who did the work to elect Sinema have had enough of her betraying the voters who put her in office," Newkirk told The Daily Beast, which first reported the vote. "It's time for her to show the bare minimum of accountability and stop obstructing the agenda that Democrats, including her, campaigned on and were elected to deliver. Sinema is setting her political future on fire. If she doesn't change course drastically and soon, it will be too late."


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Adam Jentleson, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and co-founder of the progressive Battle Born Collective, said it was a big deal that opposition to Sinema is "making the jump from the far left to the mainstream of the party."

"Sinema is not generating this kind of opposition because she's blocking lefty priorities," he tweeted. "She is gutting and undermining Biden's agenda, and hurting all Dems including [fellow Arizona senator] Mark Kelly" who is up for re-election next year. Republicans, Jentleson continued, "are having a field day using her stances to hit him. His seat could decide the majority in 2022."

Opposition to eliminating or reforming the filibuster from Sinema and fellow so-called centrist Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has derailed Democratic plans to pass voting rights legislation and other key agenda items. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other Republicans plan to use the filibuster to block Democrats from lifting the debt ceiling, which could result in the U.S. defaulting on its debt for the first time in history, potentially sparking a major financial crisis.

Sinema, whose vote alone could kill the bill in the 50-50 Senate, has also opposed the $350 billion per year price tag on the Democrats' proposed budget and has threatened to torpedo measures that Democrats have fought for decades to pass. The Arizona senator, who has received more than $750,000 from pharmaceutical and medical firms, reportedly opposes the Democrats' plan to lower drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, even though she campaigned in 2018 on lowering the cost of prescription medication. Sinema also opposes Democrats' proposals to raise the income tax rate on the wealthy from 37% to 39.6% as well as an increase to the corporate tax rate, which was lowered under the Republican tax cuts enacted under Donald Trump in 2017, according to The New York Times.

Sinema has "privately told colleagues she will not accept any corporate or income tax rate increases," according to the Times, reportedly sparked a late scramble to add a carbon tax or other revenue-raisers to the bill to help pay for Biden's proposals to expand Medicare and Medicaid, provide free child care and community college, expand family care funding and combat climate change, among other measures.

"Nearly every day for weeks, Kyrsten has been engaged in direct, good-faith discussions with her Senate colleagues, and President Biden and his team," Sinema spokesman John LaBombard told the Times. "Given the size and scope of the proposal — and the lack of detailed legislative language, or even consensus between the Senate and House around several provisions — we are not offering detailed comments on any one proposed piece of the package while those discussions are ongoing."

While Manchin has long held conservative positions and represents a state that overwhelmingly supported Trump in both 2016 and 2020, many aides and lawmakers are "puzzled" about Sinema's motivations in seeking to undermine the Democratic agenda, according to the Wall Street Journal. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell apparently saw this coming, and assured Republican colleagues in May that Sinema was likely to torpedo Biden's tax increases on corporations and the wealthy.

Sinema has received at least $923,000 from industry groups and corporations leading the lobbying blitz to kill or defang the spending proposal, according to an analysis by the progressive government watchdog group Accountable.US.

"Super-rich corporations have given Sen. Sinema nearly a million reasons to vote against making them pay their fair share in taxes," Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, said in a statement. "Make no mistake, if she sides with her wealthy donors and kills popular investments to jump-start the economy, everyday families — including across Arizona — will pay the price."

Robert Cruickshank, campaign director at the progressive group Demand Progress, argued that Sinema's opposition "gives away what is really going in Congress."

"The right-wing Dems are carrying water for big corporations and billionaires who don't want their taxes to go up."


Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: iderysh@salon.com Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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Aggregate Arizona Budget Bill Democrats Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Politics Taxes