(WASHINGTON) — Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Monday doubled down on her controversial support for the filibuster and displayed her unconventional friendship with Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell during a speech hosted by the Republican in his home state of Kentucky.
Speaking at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, Sinema reiterated her stance that the Senate should continue passing legislation under a 60-vote threshold, clarifying that she hopes to resurrect the filibuster for “everything,” including all judicial and executive branch nominees. That move would almost guarantee that the 50-50 Senate would block nearly all of President Joe Biden’s appointments.
“I committed to the 60-vote threshold, it’s been an incredibly unpopular view. I actually think we should restore the 60 vote threshold for the areas in which it has been eliminated already,” the moderate Democrat said during her speech on “The Future of Political Discourse and the Importance of Bipartisanship.”
“It would make it harder for us to confirm judges. It would make it harder for us to confirm executive appointments in each administration. But I believe by restoring, we’d actually see more of that middle ground in all parts of our governance which is what I believe our forefathers intended.”
Sinema has over the past two years been the outlier among fellow Democratic senators who have attempted to pass legislation in a tied Senate, remaining steadfast in her allegiance to the filibuster rule despite mounting criticism. Her main argument against eliminating the filibuster was that doing so might turn the Senate into the House — a lower chamber without the longstanding Senate rule.
“The trouble with that is …the House with elections every two years, representing a smaller group of voters by each House, they really represent the passions of the moment in the political spectrum,” she said, noting the impending midterm elections just over a month and a half away. Sinema is not yet up for reelection for another term.
“Control changes between the House and the Senate every couple of years, it’s likely to change again, in just a few weeks … The Senate was designed to be a place that moves slowly to cool down those passions, to think more strategically and long term about the legislation before us.”
Ahead of her remarks, Sinema was called “the most effective first term senator I’ve seen in my time in the Senate,” by McConnell, who has served 37 years in the chamber and is poised to break records for leadership longevity.
His selection of Sinema for the bipartisan speaking series means the Arizonan is now part of a longstanding list of political heavyweights, including Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Biden while he was vice president and Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state.
“She is today what we have too few of in the Democratic Party, a genuine, moderate, and a dealmaker,” McConnell said, noting with particular reverence her dedication to the Senate’s 60-vote threshold rule.
“It took one hell of a lot of guts for Kyrsten Sinema to stand up and say, ‘I’m not going to break the institution in order to achieve a short-term goal,"” he said, noting her departure from the Democrats’ desire to lower the threshold.
McConnell also said that former President Donald Trump “would harangue me on virtually a weekly basis,” about the same idea.
He also applauded Sinema’s involvement in moving forward bipartisan legislation — a role she has enjoyed as one of the few swing votes in the 50-50 Senate.
“Kyrsten has been right in the middle of, if not the principal leader, in getting us to an outcome in a highly partisan time, on infrastructure on school safety, mental health, postal reform, that ships bill you name it, every single thing that we’ve been able to work together on,” McConnell said.
Sinema, too, touted her friendship with the top Republican during her speech.
“At first glance, Sen. McConnell and I have relatively little — or some could even say nothing — in common,” she said. “For starters, he drinks bourbon, I drink wine. He’s from the Southeast and I’m from the great Southwest. He wears suits and ties, and I wear dresses and these fierce sneakers. Perhaps most obviously, we come from opposing political parties.”
“But despite our apparent differences, Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship — one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, our respect for the Senate as an institution, our love for our home states and a dogged determination on behalf of our constituents.”
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