Sinema kills plan to codify abortion rights — then fundraises on protecting women’s health care

Sinema won't back filibuster carveout to pass an abortion bill she is co-sponsoring

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published July 1, 2022 9:24AM (EDT)

Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) (Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) (Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., on Thursday sent out a fundraising email touting her work to protect women's health care after shooting down President Joe Biden's proposal to codify abortion rights.

Biden on Thursday called for the Senate to support a filibuster carveout to pass a federal law ensuring the right to an abortion.

"The most important thing ... we have to change -- I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade in the law," Biden said during a news conference at the NATO summit in Madrid. "And the way to do that is to make sure the Congress votes to do that. And if the filibuster gets in the way, it's like voting rights -- it should be (that) we provide an exception to this ... requiring an exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision."

The plan was quickly shot down by Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who have opposed scrapping the filibuster. Sinema's office told CNN that the senator is "still opposed to gutting the filibuster on any topic including on reproductive rights."

Sinema was accused of hypocrisy after repeatedly touting her support for abortion rights. Former Obama administration digital strategist Tim Fullerton flagged a fundraising email Sinema's campaign sent out Thursday touting her work to "protect women's health care."

Sinema said after the Supreme Court last week struck down federal abortion protections that the ruling "endangers the health and wellbeing of women."

"Throughout my time in Congress, I've always supported women's access to health care, and I'll continue working with anyone to protect women's ability to make decisions about their futures," she said in a statement that noted she has "repeatedly voted in favor of protecting women's right to choose and is a cosponsor of the Women's Health Protection Act."

Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett noted that Sinema and Democrats were only able to confirm Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson with 53 votes because of an existing filibuster carveout.

"Why wouldn't she do it to pass the bill to codify Roe—a bill she cosponsors?" he tweeted.

John LaBombard, Sinema's former spokesman, dismissed criticism of the senator, describing a filibuster carveout to protect abortion rights as a "progressive purity test."

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Sinema last year wrote a Washington Post op-ed arguing that Democrats "have more to lose than gain by ending the filibuster."

"To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to expand health-care access," she wrote, "Would it be good for our country if we did, only to later see that legislation replaced by legislation… defunding women's reproductive health services?"

Sinema's explanation was rejected by Arizona Democrats, who censured her for backing the filibuster as the party tried to codify voting rights during a nationwide Republican crackdown on ballot access. Some progressives have already launched efforts to back a primary challenger to Sinema in 2024.

There is, of course, nothing to stop Republicans from forcing their own filibuster changes if they regain control of the Senate in the midterm elections regardless of what Democrats do this term. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who previously eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, floated the possibility of passing a federal abortion ban earlier this year.

McConnell's Senate strategy during Biden's first two years in office has heavily relied on obstruction from Manchin and Sinema. The Republican leader has repeatedly pointed to Sinema's opposition to rolling back the Trump tax cuts — which she campaigned against — to privately assure Republicans that she would help kill his legislative agenda.

"Hopefully that will be enough to keep this thing underwater permanently," he said publicly during a Kentucky Chamber of Commerce event this spring.

McConnell went further on Thursday, vowing to kill the bipartisan United States Innovation and Competition Act — a bill that invests in American industries to bolster U.S. competitiveness with China that passed the Senate 68-32 — if Democrats move ahead with a reconciliation bill to lower drug prices.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., a potential Sinema primary challenger, tweeted that the "only reason he can make that threat" is because he knows Sinema and Manchin empower him "by not neutering the filibuster."

Longtime progressive advocate Nina Turner called out the Democratic Party for allowing the two senators to hold their agenda hostage.

"Manchin and Sinema deserve to face consequences," she tweeted. "Would Mitch McConnell allow two Republican senators to derail the GOP agenda? No he would not."


Correction: This article previously said Sinema supported a filibuster carveout to raise the debt ceiling. It was a workaround that passed with 60 votes.

Read more

about Sinema's obstruction

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Abortion Aggregate Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Politics