What’s Krysten Sinema’s Game?

The political calculus of Arizona's senior Senator is unclear.

While West Virginia’s Joe Manchin gets markedly more press, his colleague from Arizona is equally out of step with the rest of the Democratic caucus. Further, while one easily understands why a septuagenarian from a deep red state votes the way he does, it’s harder to explain why a youngish, bisexual woman from a purple state is so adamantly against the Biden agenda. Certainly, TPM’s Josh Marshall has been struggling to figure it out.

In a Monday afternoon post titled “Kyrsten Sinema’s Final Senate Term,” he wondered whether she simply has no interest in getting re-elected:

[A]s near as I can see, unless she shifts her stance pretty dramatically the odds of Sinema being elected to a second Senate term in 2024 are pretty poor. And that’s made me consider another question: does she just misread the politics of her situation that badly or is she not planning on running?

[…]

2020 was the last election cycle in which it was possible to run for Senate as a Democrat and support retaining the legislative filibuster in something like its current form. That may not apply in West Virginia. But I’m pretty sure it applies in the 49 other states. Sure, not every Democrat cares a lot about the filibuster. Some don’t know what it is. But certainly among active politically engaged Democrats it is close to the central issue of politics. And it’s really not a left-right thing. It’s that central because pretty much whatever your big issue is it’s the filibuster that stands in the way – whether it’s climate, jobs and fiscal policy, choice, immigration, labor. Anything and everything.

[…]

Let’s say things more or less come together on infrastructure but voting rights and a bunch of other stuff goes down in flames. She and Joe Manchin will be the main reasons for that. How well will Sinema be able to sell that record in a Democratic primary? I wouldn’t want to be in charge of running that campaign. What’s her argument exactly? This is wildly more so if her antics crater this infrastructure package.

Now, does she win that primary? It’s really hard to knock off an incumbent. So I figure she probably does – depending on who challenges her. But primaries aren’t free. Any political professional will tell you that an incumbent who goes into a general election after a bruising and hard fought primary goes into a general election with real problems. That’s not so bad if you’re from a blue state. But Arizona is not a blue state. It’s purple and even that is pretty new and tenuous.

[…]

There’s little about Sinema that makes her uniquely suited to hold or win a Senate seat from Arizona. The fact that she accomplished it is a big deal – the first in a generation. But Mark Kelly managed it two years later. I also don’t have the sense that she’s uniquely popular among Democratic activists or elected officials in the state. I could go through various ways of looking at this. But Joe Manchin is sui generis as a Democrat in West Virginia. Kyrsten Sinema just isn’t that in Arizona at all.

Yesterday, in “Sinema Cueing Up To Go Indy (Must Read),” he offered an alternate explanation: she sees herself, ala the previous holder of the seat John McCain, as a nonpartisan maverick. He posts a lengthy email from a local reader that includes this:

There’s no reason for her to change her approach because in all of her electoral races since her first state legislative ones, the independents have been the key to her winning elections. Democrats will vote for her in the general election, even if they hold their noses doing it, so she’s going to do everything possible to appeal to the disaffected Republicans who became Independents during the Trump era.

[…]

[L]ocal election law allows every single Independent to request a primary ballot for either one of the two parties. Whether voting in person or by permanent early voting (mail), they get to vote in one of the two party primaries without changing their permanent party registration. It’s really easy to do so in her view she’s not truly running in a Democratic Party primary. She’s running in a Democratic and Independents primary.

Since she thinks she knows how to win a primary without overwhelming Democratic party support, it’s not an outrageous approach to focus on appealing to Independents. Especially since the Republican Party here has become extravagantly radicalized. It’s run by people who supported and potentially helped plan the January insurrection. The only person who will get through a Republican primary in Arizona will not only have to say they believe in all of that, but they’ll have to give a full-throated defense of it and promise to bring the hammer down on the opposition.

Marshall observes,

I’ve heard various stories of her fairly dramatically misreading rooms and making jarring or ill-timed comments. My sense is that now she’s just misreading the national room. The ambition part is key to appreciate since some people seem to think she’s bored with the Senate and ready to move on or angling for a high priced lobbying gig. That’s clearly not the case. She’s just as focused on advancement within elected politics as most other pols. The DGAF theory doesn’t fly. She clearly thinks this is her path to national office.

I have no insights into Sinema’s thinking but, if this is it, she is indeed “dramatically misreading the room.” Despite Hollywood fantasies of mavericks winning the White House the independent route, our system makes that all but impossible in reality.

The two major parties have an all but mathematical lock on the Electoral College. While Ross Perot got a significant number of popular votes in 1992 (18.9%) and 1996 (8.4%) he won zero Electoral votes. The last third-party candidate to win any Electors was George Wallace in 1968. Despite winning 13.5% of the national popular vote and carrying five states, he only received 46 Electoral votes (including a faithless North Carolina elector), far fewer than Hubert Humphrey’s 191 and Richard Nixon’s 301. Before that, the last third-party candidate to have a major impact on the race was Teddy Roosevelt in 1912. Roosevelt came in second, pushing Republican incumbent William Howard Taft to third place. But, because TR and Taft essentially split the Republican vote, the result was a blowout win for Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

And, to borrow a line from the late Lloyd Benson, Sinema is no Teddy Roosevelt.

Nor, for reasons outlined in the first of Marshall’s posts highlighted above, is it plausible for Sinema to get the nomination of either of the two major parties. The Democratic primaries are dominated by progressives and the Black caucus, neither of which are enamored of Sinema. And, certainly, a bisexual with a lifetime 100% rating from Planned Parenthood would face long odds in the GOP.

So, honestly, I have no idea what her end game is.

FILED UNDER: Congress, US Politics, US Senate
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    No special insight and I know little about her, but my sense gathered primarily from how professionals are reacting to her, is that she’s a third rater with delusions of grandeur. People like that can really f things up.

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  2. de stijl says:

    I know she is doing what feels right and correct to her. I can certainly respect that. As a political person I often dislike her actions. I have a quasi respect for her but then again I don’t. Work out your shit on your time.

    I cannot see her winning re-election. She betrayed D voters and R voters would not trust her. She has painted herself into a corner I do not believe she can escape from. No path forward to a successful Senate long tenure.

    It looks like self-sabotage. I want out of this situation.

    There is no way this threads the needle.

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  3. I saw the second piece (the e-mail from a local) yesterday, but only had time to skim it and I filed in my brain to come back to. If I am reading it correctly (and if it, in turn, is correctly interpreting Sinema) then we have here the case of Sinema thinking that voters identifying as “independent” really means that they are non-partisan (which we know isn’t the case–almost all “independents” are partisan leaners and likely even reliable partisan voters, despite their stated ID). Beyond that, just because independents can choose their party affiliation on primary day doesn’t mean that most primary voters aren’t already pretty dedicated to one side or the other (and, indeed, moreso than general election voters).

    Her incumbent status may be enough to get her renominated, but the notion that she can forge some bold independent pathway is plain silly.

    (Especially since her basic backstory is hardly one that is going to draw in Republican-leaning independents).

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  4. JohnMcC says:

    I know almost nothing of her except as she has been in the media since her first senate campaign. My thought as I’ve watched has been, ‘how did she get here?’ A Jill Stein linked non-Democrat ends up representing an entire state in the US Senate?!

    Obviously, what has been preached here about the weakness of the parties in our system is way too true.

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  5. KM says:

    She doesn’t have an end game, she has a “vision”. From the moment she did that asinine little curtsy in too-young for her age clothing when screwing over the min wage vote, I knew she was someone who thought she was brilliant free-thinker and quirky but doesn’t understand why no one else likes her. I’ve known plenty of ambitious folks like her that always think their super-genius plan or oddball personality will be enough to rocket them to the top…. only to stumble because nobody’s impressed with that crap but them. She thinks she’s Phoebe from Friends, Sheldon from Big Bang – those wacky souls that think if you just trust and listen to them it will all be alright since they got this. Positioning herself as a maverick fits right into the quirky kawaii aspect she works hard at – OMG you don’t know what I’m gonna do since I’m a free spirit and follow my own rulez lol! Feelin’ indy, may take down later…..

    Sinema is telling the Dems what she thinks the Dems should be and believe – a false vacillating middle that’s not actually what independent or Independent means. She’s not reflecting her voters or offering a option of governance for them to pick, she’s saying “this is ME and since I got that (D), this is you” and expecting people will accept her her quirky indy self as an actual (I) if that fails. It won’t. She’s doomed and taking the party with it but she won’t accept it. It won’t be her fault we didn’t understand her ways – us normies will be the reason she loses, not her trying to have her cake and eat it too.

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    @KM:

    I’ve known plenty of ambitious folks like her that always think their super-genius plan or oddball personality will be enough to rocket them to the top…. only to stumble because nobody’s impressed with that crap but them.

    You put this better than I did when I said, “third rather with delusions of grandeur”.

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  7. Mike in Arlington says:

    I’ve read that she might be trying to inoculate herself from being labeled as “far left” given her earlier membership and involvement with the green party and Ralph Nader, and this seems to me to be the most likely explanation. I also think that she’s way overcorrecting, just as both the national democratic constituency as well as her constituency in Arizona are shifting leftwards.

    I think she’ll end up being left in the cold unless she realizes her mistake (if it is indeed a mistake, she could end up being right and will have the last laugh).

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  8. Raoul says:

    I can respect the position of Manchin and Sinema if I knew what it was! If the the reconciliation package needs to be cut in half, so be it (one can pass future legislation); if some priorities need to reprioritized, ok then. What is infuriating is the lack of clarity. First, the tax needs to be reset, then the total expenditure number, now the date. Perhaps behind the scene we know the demarcations but for all appearances, we don’t know what these two senators want. How can someone negotiate with another person when that person does not seem to know what they want. I would stop the process until this matter was resolved.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @KM:
    Manic Pixie Dream Senator.

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  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    I remember an article a while back indicating Sinema has an unusually high NV percentage on Senate roll call votes, so my theory is that she’s only into the celebrity aspects of being a Senator and not really into the actual work part of it.

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  11. Andy says:

    Ok, I don’t have much time today, but let me quickly explain why you and Marshall are wrong.

    And, I want to make clear to the commentariat that this is analysis and not advocacy, so please don’t try to make arguments that try to get me to defend Sinema’s policies or anything else she may or may not stand for.

    First, even though the “read the room” framing is exceedingly annoying, it’s useful for analysis in this case. I think the main error that you and Marshall are making is believing that Sinema (and other moderates) live in the same room as you do. Sinema actually is “reading the room” – it’s just a different room than the one that you and Marshall live in. Sinema’s room is centered on the median voter in Arizona and NOT the median voter in NY, CA, DC or those who live in the Twitter bubble.

    Matt Yglesias has a very useful post related to this on his substack today, the gist of which is:

    So much in politics is uncertain or difficult that I think even professionals tend to underrate the upside to doing things that are obvious and easy.

    Back in 1992, James Carville supposedly hung a sign in Clinton campaign headquarters that said, “it’s the economy, stupid.” By the same token, Democrats today could improve their performance enormously if every staffer’s computer monitor had a Post-It stuck to it that said “the median voter is a 50-something white person who didn’t go to college and lives in an unfashionable suburb.”

    This is important because it’s true. But I think it tends not to be front of mind when decisions are getting made. That’s because decisions about how to frame issues are most often made by young college graduates who live in big cities and consume a lot of media created by other young college graduates who live in big cities.

    He expands on that at length.

    The median Arizona voter is simply much different than the median coastal Democrat and particularly those who are members of the elite like you and Marshall. Sinema represents the people of her state – expecting her to instead represent the policies and values of Josh Marshall and coastal Democrats is just dumb.

    Why is it dumb? It’s dumb because all the attempts to brow-beat Sinema and others to ignore the room in which they live is going to fail for several reasons:

    – One, is that our parties are weak, and therefore the Democratic party as a whole, and the progressive base specifically, have very little actual influence over Sinema. The party needs her more than she needs the party.
    – Two, moderates like Sinema likely remember what happened with Obamacare and what happened to moderates afterward.

    Finally. as a native of Colorado who knows the inter-mountain west very well, I think much of the rest of the country doesn’t really understand that politics are different here. There is a unique culture here that few outside the region seem to understand. Democrats are starting to do well in this region from Montana down to Arizona not because they adopted a coastal progressive worldview, but because they have been pragmatic politicians who met their electorates where they are instead of where the likes of Josh Marshall wishes they were. Sinema, Tester, Hickenlooper, Polis, and other Democratic politicians in this region know the political landscape and understand the limits of what is possible here – which Josh Marshall and many like him do not.

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  12. Jen says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Nailed it.

    An AP reporter friend of mine used to describe this as having delusions of relevance.

    “Maverick” works when you’re tacitly aligned with one of the two dominant political parties, and occasionally cast a vote here or there that speaks to mainstream voters instead of your base, not when you’re flailing to the point no one can figure you out.

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  13. mattbernius says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    More like “Manic Pixie NIGHTMARE Senator.”

    Sorry, it was just sitting there and I had to take it.

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  14. Jen says:

    @Andy: I think she THINKS she’s trying to reflect the interests of the median Arizona voter, but is operating with a cardboard cutout image of what that is. She’s a former social worker and Green Party politician, who supported Ralph Nader and has criticized capitalism. She’s since been all over the map. I think she’s in self-preservation mode, with no real guiding principles. That’s a recipe for political mush, not the Mavericky-ness of a John McCain.

    *I should add–my family lives in AZ, and all of them have expressed disappointment/frustration with her as a Senator. My father, an “independent” who always, always votes Republican cannot stand her. My mom and sister who aren’t as fixed in their voting patterns think she’s proving to be a flake.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    You’re right. She’s doing what she thinks she needs to do to hold onto her job. But I don’t accept ‘gotta keep my job,’ as an excuse unless you’re poor and have no alternative. I wonder when we as a country started to believe that weak excuse was all a politician needed, as if the only purpose of politics was to allow mediocrities to remain employed.

    These last five years have been gasoline on the fire of my cynicism. I’d always thought I had a fairly low opinion of people, but I was wrong. I was a giddy optimist. People are stupider, weaker, nastier and more cowardly than I would have imagined.

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  16. Andy says:

    @Jen:

    I think she’s in self-preservation mode, with no real guiding principles. That’s a recipe for political mush, not the Mavericky-ness of a John McCain.

    Self-preservation is a defining characteristic of the political class. They all want to get elected and then reelected. Sinema is no different and is not in any way an outlier. Whatever her previous views and associations, she’s now an Arizona Senator and therefore she must understand and adequately represent the needs of that electorate if she wants to remain a Senator.

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  17. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You’re right. She’s doing what she thinks she needs to do to hold onto her job. But I don’t accept ‘gotta keep my job,’ as an excuse unless you’re poor and have no alternative.

    As I noted to Jen, this isn’t unique to Sinema. All politicians, with rare exceptions, act this way, including progressive politicians. And the job is actually supposed to be to represent your constituents, not the desires of Josh Marshall or political Twitter.

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  18. Jen says:

    @Andy: Although it’s been a while, I have worked in Republican politics and as a legislative aide to a state senator.

    There’s an enormous difference between politicians who hold a wet finger in the wind and those who focus on their constituents.

    One need only look as far as her Senate colleague from Arizona. Presumably, Sen. Kelly is also working on behalf of his constituents, yes? And yet he’s not the subject of myriad articles trying to determine what the heck he’s doing.

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  19. Michael Cain says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    By Senate standards, Sinema is dirt poor. The $175K per year plus bennies gig may be the best she could ever hope for.

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  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

    Senators take an oath and it is not to the state of Arizona or to their own re-election. They aren’t paid or pensioned by the state of Arizona, but by American taxpayers. I don’t deny most pols are self-serving swine, but I don’t find that acceptable.

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  21. Andy says:

    @Jen:

    One need only look as far as her Senate colleague from Arizona. Presumably, Sen. Kelly is also working on behalf of his constituents, yes? And yet he’s not the subject of myriad articles trying to determine what the heck he’s doing.

    That is a problem with the media, not Sinema. The myopic media focus on Sinema and Manchin, as I recently argued in other posts, results in so much else getting lost. Try to find any recent media report on Mark Kelly’s stance on the 3.5t reconciliation bill and you’ll see what I mean. Or Tester, or any number of moderates who are keeping quiet but likely would prefer a much smaller bill.

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  22. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Senators take an oath and it is not to the state of Arizona or to their own re-election. They aren’t paid or pensioned by the state of Arizona, but by American taxpayers. I don’t deny most pols are self-serving swine, but I don’t find that acceptable.

    That oath has nothing to do with whether politicians should or shouldn’t support this – or any other – spending bill.

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  23. Raoul says:

    @Andy: Can you inform us whether Sinema supports any reconciliation and if so how much? Does her indie cred goes up or down if both bills fail?

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  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    The Senate is not the House. Senators are meant to be a cut above. If a Senator’s job is just to raise a finger to the wind then why not do away with Congress and replace the whole lot of them with direct democracy? We have the technology. We could talk to the producers of America’s Got Talent about votes by cellphone.

    This former Green is helping to cripple any American contribution to dealing with climate change, and that is a betrayal of Arizona’s future, as well as the future of our country and our species.

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  25. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    She’s doing what she thinks she needs to do to hold onto her job.

    Is she though? Mark Kelly is up for election before her and doesn’t seem to be going out of his way to poke the rest of the party in the eye?

    And empirically, Sinema’s strategy isn’t working as her total support is less than Mark Kelly’s and she’s driving away dem voters without picking up an offsetting block of independents and republicans.

    So what makes her think this will help her hold onto her job?

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  26. charon says:

    AZ has a sore loser law, so if she competes in the Democratic primary she would need to win it. I believe her ability to win a Democratic primary now is questionable, IMO.

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  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    That’s why I qualified with ‘thinks’ she’s doing what she needs to do. It’s quite possible that she’s just kinda stoopid.

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  28. charon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I believe it’s Sinema who is up first, next cycle I think.

    The polls I have seen say Mark Kelly has good approval numbers, Sinema’s are in the toilet.

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  29. Stormy Dragon says:

    @charon:

    Kelly is filling John McCain’s 2016 Senate seat and has to run for relection in 2022

    Sinema won the 2018 Senate seat and doesn’t have to run again until 2024

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  30. inhumans99 says:

    @Raoul:

    Thank you, I was just going to post something like this. Andy’s post explains why she holds the views she does, to get re-elected (duh!), okay…sure, sure, I understand that. However, where in his post does he lay out how that justifies her bringing down the entire agenda of the Democratic Party?

    Andy is saying, hey Josh/James/Steven/Michael/inhumans99, etc., your mistake is thinking that she should hold the same views as constituents in CA, Oregon, and other states that are not red, or even purple, but straight up Blue states, but is that not the same mistake Sinema is making, in assuming that the only correct way of thinking is to think like her constituents in AZ?

    Sinema, and Manchin need to spend less time preening in the media about their mavericky status as Dem politicians talking about why they will not vote for the infrastructure bill as is, and more time needs to be spent behind closed doors speaking with other Dem politicians about what they would like to see end up in a version of the bill they are willing to vote for.

    Quite frankly, it is not a good look for the both of them and if they get swept out to sea (or the desert in Sinema’s case) in 2022 along with a whole bunch of other politicians (hopefully, not all of the politicians swept out to sea will have a D in front of their name) they have no one to blame but themselves, don’t whine that Josh Marshall caused you to go down in flames in 2022, look in the mirror and put the blame squarely on the shoulders where it belongs, the ones reflected back at you in the mirror.

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  31. just nutha says:

    @Andy: Interesting comment and good point. I will simply note that it possible for two or persons, simultaneously, to either misread a room or to mistake which room they are in at any one time. I have no special insight into Mountain West politics and don’t particularly need any. We’ll know all we need to about Sinema’s future in about 13 months. That’s soon enough for my needs.

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  32. Andy says:

    @Raoul:

    Can you inform us whether Sinema supports any reconciliation and if so how much? Does her indie cred goes up or down if both bills fail?

    As I said at the outset:

    And, I want to make clear to the commentariat that this is analysis and not advocacy, so please don’t try to make arguments that try to get me to defend Sinema’s policies or anything else she may or may not stand for.

    So no. I’m not going there and I don’t know enough to go there. The only thing I do know for sure is that she’s been saying 3.5t is too big for at least two months now.

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Kelly is filling John McCain’s 2016 Senate seat and has to run for relection in 2022

    Sinema won the 2018 Senate seat and doesn’t have to run again until 2024

    Exactly, which helps explains why Kelly is avoiding saying anything that will make the national news.

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  33. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Andy:

    The only thing I do know for sure is that she’s been saying 3.5t is too big for at least two months now.

    The fact we all know what she won’t vote for but have no idea what she will vote for leaves one questioning if the 3.5t complaint was actually being offered in good faith. It seems like McConnellism where the real end goal is to pass nothing, and each individual complaint is just an excuse for blaming it on the other side. If they actually address your complaint, then a new complaint will just take its place.

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  34. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Andy:

    Exactly, which helps explains why Kelly is avoiding saying anything that will make the national news.

    LOL, okay, I apologize for taking the troll seriously everyone.

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  35. Andy says:

    @inhumans99:

    However, where in his post does he lay out how that justifies her bringing down the entire agenda of the Democratic Party?

    I’m not here to justify anything – I am trying to explain behavior and push back against what I see as wishcasting about the current situation.

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  36. just nutha says:

    @Stormy Dragon: In that case, move my estimate out to37 or 38 months. I thought she was running in 2022 also. On the other side, by 2024 with community memory being as short as it is, all of the current drama may well be forgotten.

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  37. Andy says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    LOL, okay, I apologize for taking the troll seriously everyone.

    No need to be an asshole.

    What’s your explanation then? Note that Kelly has not definitively come out in support for or against this reconciliation bill and has been super vague about whenever he’s asked about it. He touts the bipartisan infrastructure bill on his website and social media, but has said nothing about the reconciliation bill. That’s a sign of, what exactly?

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  38. just nutha says:

    @inhumans99: My impression of his take is that she’s not doing that; she’s only the one getting press coverage (along with Manchin), but that there are lots of other moderates with the same concerns. As to whether that take is accurate, I haven’t a clue; I gave up following that drama when I realized that (to my take anyway) the bill isn’t going to pass.

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  39. KM says:

    @charon:

    The polls I have seen say Mark Kelly has good approval numbers, Sinema’s are in the toilet.

    This. Where exactly is she getting the idea that indy maverick is the way to go as it’s clearly not coming from polling of her constituents? Her own voters are expressing displeasure with this behavior so why is she thinking this is how to roll? She’s modeling herself on McCain but *why*? It’s not what the Dems want and she’s the greater of two evils to the other side.

    I understand AZ voters both D and R are not necessarily like the “average” one. However, she has to be getting bad numbers from her people polling the folks that put her in office that this is not cool. If her plan is that she can appeal to enough conservative and “independents” to make up for lost liberal votes to coast to victory, she’s insane. Time and time again, we’ve seen that R will pull that R lever no matter how much the Dem tries to appeal to “moderateness”. If she’s betting nobody’s gonna primary her since we won’t want to risk losing the seat, she probably shouldn’t be pissing everyone off. At this point, we’re in danger of losing the seat anyways so might as well try to get someone useful in should we succeed.

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  40. Beth says:

    Man, Manic Pixie Dream Senator sounds like my ideal job. Do you think the Senate has room for two quirky bisexual women that dress too young for their age. That would be heavenly.

    Anyway, seriously, though, I think @Andy: reference to Tester is very apt. There’s a guy that represents a RED state. According to my lazy wikipedia search, he supports both the Equality act and abortion rights. There’s a guy who has a clear vision of both himself and his electorate.

    Then there’s this:

    Finally, after noting that the filibuster has been “weaponized” to block action, Tester said that “at some point in time, this country needs Congress to act and get things done.” A bit later, Tester reiterated that he really doesn’t want to end the filibuster, but unceasing dysfunction might ultimately require it. Everything here is cast as being about how to make government work for people, how to make it responsive to them, how to enable the government to get important things done.

    And then there’s this: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/jon_tester/412244

    Which if I’m reading it correctly, the only “Democrats” to the right of him are Manchin and Sinema and this website has them both being less effective than Testor. So, if accepting any of the standard “Democratic” positions is the kiss of death, how is Testor quietly able to both hang on and get (at least some of) the job done?

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  41. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Andy:

    That’s a sign of, what exactly?

    That it’s possible to negotiate without being the posterchild for constantly thumbing your own party in the eye. Which gets back to why stating that Sinema is trying to stay out of the national spot light is ridiculous. She’s going out of her way to be the center of attention.

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  42. Beth says:

    The link that goes with the quote above is:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/10/red-state-democrat-demonstrates-how-talk-about-ending-filibuster/

    I knew I shouldn’t have gotten fancy.

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  43. KM says:

    @Andy:
    Moderate behavior. He’s in favor but not out pimping it. Following the party line but not rubbing it the faces of those who would use it to harm him. Notice nobody for either side is picking on or cares about Kelly’s stance.

    He’s also not actively threatening it which is not centrist or moderate behavior in the slightest. She’s deliberately cultivating an image of “screw you guys I do what I want since Maverick!!” despite the fact that’s displeasing to both her AZ constituents and the party at large. They don’t like her causing a scene and they don’t like her ruining a big deal for her own reasons. AZ liberals might not be the same as their coastal brethren but they’re not conservatives either. She’s eroding her base and it’s reflecting in the polls – this is not what they wanted when they elected her.

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  44. KM says:

    @Beth:

    Do you think the Senate has room for two quirky bisexual women that dress too young for their age.

    Well, this rate the job might be up for grabs real soon so go for the gold!!

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  45. Scott F. says:

    @Andy:
    Sinema’s not reading the unique room that is Arizona very well either, if recent polling is any indication.

    Per a follow-up from Josh Marshall (the myopic one we are to believe), Sinema is polling significantly behind Biden and Kelly with Democrats AND Independents. Democratic primary voters (who, as noted previously, are some mix of Democrats and Independents) would replace Sinema 3 to 1. Granted these results come from only one poll, but those aren’t “she knows better than you” kinds of numbers.

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  46. Christine says:

    @mattbernius: I think your description is generous. LOL.
    I view her as the Democrat’s MTG, with just a tad bit less of crazytown tendencies.

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  47. Beth says:

    @KM:

    LOL. Awww, but then I’d have to move to Arizona* and it’s full of kooks and scorpions. And I almost died the last time I was there. Never a good idea to fall asleep while driving a jeep on an unpaved mountain road.

    *Apologies to anyone here who is from Arizona, but come on, there are a lot of kooks there.

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  48. Neil J Hudelson says:

    Instead of mountain states having a unique and special brand of politics that’s opaque to outsiders, could it just be that Phoenix and Denver have exploded in population, and they are following the nationwide trend of greater urbanization = greater dem vote?

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  49. Andy says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Which gets back to why stating that Sinema is trying to stay out of the national spot light is ridiculous. She’s going out of her way to be the center of attention.

    I never claimed she was trying to stay out of the national spotlight. What I claimed is that the national media is focused on her and Manchin as the “shiny” and ignoring everyone else. It would be useful if the media were more interested in, and put more pressure on, Mark Kelly and others who aren’t showing any cards.

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  50. Gustopher says:

    She wants to be a “Maverick” in the style of John McCain, which is fine, I guess, but she should pick what she wants to Maverick-up carefully. McCain was not nearly as Mavericky as his reputation, and almost always fell in line with his party.

    The median voter in Arizona is on her mind. But the median voter is also pretty uninformed.

    She needs to spitefully block the progressive caucus, sure, but she really needs to work with them to block enough for her to get Maverick-cred, but still get things done.

    “I blocked the entirety of the Democratic Agenda” isn’t Mavericky. “I blocked X because X isn’t right for Arizona” is (but requires getting the Progressives to offer up something to be killed). Or work across the aisle to get Romney’s version of the child tax credit passed rather than Biden’s out of spite.

    She’s not going independent, and she’s not setting up her retirement, she’s just trying to Maverick like Mavericks do.

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  51. wr says:

    @Andy: “Note that Kelly has not definitively come out in support for or against this reconciliation bill and has been super vague about whenever he’s asked about it. He touts the bipartisan infrastructure bill on his website and social media, but has said nothing about the reconciliation bill. That’s a sign of, what exactly?”

    It’s a sign that he’s probably spending his time negotiating with his fellow senators to get his input into the bill, instead of prancing around in the media as some kind of purity pony and declaring that it’s really all up to her.

    There are people who do the work, and there are people who just want the attention. Why you think that her constant headline-grubbing is in any way productive is beyond me.

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  52. wr says:

    @Andy: “It would be useful if the media were more interested in, and put more pressure on, Mark Kelly and others who aren’t showing any cards.”

    Why should the media be pressuring Mark Kelly? Apparently he’s doing his job — there certainly haven’t been any complaints about him from other Democrats. I’m sure that if “the media” were to ask him about the bill, he’d say something incredibly boring like “we’re all negotiating this together to get the best possible bill for the American people.”

    Meanwhile, Sinema is dialing up every reporter she can find and shouting “I’m the only one who matters. It’s all about meeeeee!”

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  53. Andy says:

    @Scott F.:

    Marshall is citing a poll from July that isn’t relevant today. After all, have you checked Biden’s numbers recently? They are bad. Everything said about Sinema’s bad numbers from July could be said about Biden’s bad numbers today.

    But I don’t think current polling matters much considering Biden and Sinema don’t face reelection for a long time.

    @wr:

    It’s a sign that he’s probably spending his time negotiating with his fellow senators to get his input into the bill, instead of prancing around in the media as some kind of purity pony and declaring that it’s really all up to her.

    Could be and I hope that’s the case. But we don’t really know.

    That’s my annoyance with the media – they aren’t trying to find out if your theory is true or not. Yet the media assumes that everyone is 100% for this bill except for Manchin and Sinema and constantly plays that narrative.

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  54. Michael Cain says:

    @Beth:

    So, if accepting any of the standard “Democratic” positions is the kiss of death, how is Testor quietly able to both hang on and get (at least some of) the job done?

    Montana is somewhat peculiar. They have had at least one Democrat in the US Senate continuously since 1911, the longest such streak in the country. I think Testor plays the game differently than Sinema and Manchin. Both of those two are often characterized as being unhappy unless the national spotlight is on them. Testor seems to prefer that the national media aren’t paying any attention to him. OTOH, it is one thing to vote for the $3.5T budget resolution and quite another to vote for a $3.5T budget bill. He may have no plans to vote for that much spending, but he’s not about to show his hand at this point, while it’s not clear that the House can pass a $3.5T budget bill.

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  55. @Andy:

    Sinema represents the people of her state – expecting her to instead represent the policies and values of Josh Marshall and coastal Democrats is just dumb.

    Speaking for myself, I am not making that assumption (that she should represent coastal Dem’s views) nor, actually, do I think Marshall is claiming that.

    The problem, to me, as it pertains to Sinema is that while one may be able to argue she is trying to be an AZ moderate and representing all of AZ that doesn’t necessarily help her get re-nominated on the Democratic primary because AZ Dems likely like hiking the minimum wage and they definitely like the infrastructure package (and many of them want to do away with the filibuster). As such, Sinema has a problem with her nominating electorate.

    From there if she is re-nomiated because of the semi-open primary (or, more likely, simply because she is the incumbent), Dem enthusiasm could be lessened in the general, which would be problematic in a close race.

    Being a “moderate” won’t necessarily attract Rep-leaning independents.

    Plus her political background, her sexual orientation, and her performance art (for example) doesn’t really scream “AZ moderate.”

    In other words: she is doing things that will upset liberal Dems in the state and has baggage that doesn’t help build a case for “moderate”–in a close race. Maybe she holds on to the nomination and in a presidential year (2024) gets a blue-ish boost.

    But I remain unconvinced that scuttling the spending bill and protecting the filibuster helps her get renominated.

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  56. @Andy:

    But I don’t think current polling matters much considering Biden and Sinema don’t face reelection for a long time.

    Agreed.

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  57. Andy says:

    @wr:

    Why should the media be pressuring Mark Kelly? Apparently he’s doing his job — there certainly haven’t been any complaints about him from other Democrats.

    “Apparently”

    See, that’s the problem here, we are guessing and your guess is that Kelly is acting in good faith and doing his job because other Democrats aren’t complaining about him.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the media tried to find out if that is true or not?

    As far as I’m aware Kelly, and many other moderates, have not committed to supporting or opposing this bill. It seems reasonable to me to suggest that the media perhaps ought to try to a bit harder to find out exactly where they stand.

    Because one of the theories out there is that many other moderates besides Sinema and Manchin oppose this bill, but they are staying silent and letting Manchin and Sinema take all the heat for them. I think it would be newsworthy to try to discover if this is true and report the results.

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  58. MarkedMan says:

    @Scott F.: Here are those July numbers from the Josh Marshall editorial blog:

    How do the actual numbers at home add up for Sinema? I looked. They’re terrible! Honestly substantially worse than I thought. This mid-July poll from Data for Progress tells the story. Among Arizona Dems Joe Biden had a 94% approval rating; Mark Kelly had an 85% approval and Sinema had a 54% approval. Within your own party that’s a really, really bad number. And how did she fair with independents? She actually came in behind Biden (44%) and Kelly (45%), though not by much. Sinema was at 40%. When Arizona Democratic primary voters (who can be Dems or independents) were given the options of “I would vote to reelect Kyrsten Sinema” or “I would vote for a different candidate who would get rid of the filibuster” the numbers were basically catastrophic. Sinema got 22% and the unnamed filibuster-buster got 66%.
    Of Sinema, Biden, Kelly and the Republican Governor Doug Doucey she’s the least popular.

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  59. Jen says:

    Well, as someone who lived in Arizona (albeit for a short time) and who has family currently there, and who used to work in politics…she strikes me as someone who is misreading the room, and badly.

    She doesn’t have the tenure to pull the nonsense that Manchin is pulling, not even close.

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  60. KM says:

    @Andy:
    I’m going to be honest here – this sounds like fishing for justification for clearly odd behavior on Sinema’s part. It’s not really an analysis as you say so much as rebuttal of why are we singling out the person making a scene of themselves? Kinda like the so-called Cletus safaris where NYT keeps trying to find out *why* Trump voters are they way they are but nobody’s doing the same for Austin dwellers fighting to stay blue in TX.

    Why isn’t the media bothering the other moderates? Why in the world should they? They don’t have to pledge visible support- not everyone needs to publicly bend the knee and gush about legislation they’re a Yes on. Both parties let their members in delicate situations not loudly scream how much they love this thing their supporters might not be too crazy about. That’s perfect normal so as long as they’re not out in the papers threatening to shut down a vote, no one’s calling their offices for a deep dive into their inner thoughts. Don’t poke the bear and all….

    Where do they stand? If they’re a Yes, their stance is Yes. Perhaps they’re only putting up with it for party loyalty or a specific goodie but really, that’s not what’s the issue here. Politically we don’t bother the consensus supporters, we look at outliers or nosy complainers. That’s why we know AOC’s stance, btw – she’s making noise about it so we pay attention and care. There are 100 Senators – should the media bug each and every one to find out WHY, even the Nos? They’re going to look at the problem causers and guess who’s causing a problem?

    Sinema’s behavior makes sense to herself and not many others. That’s a problem since her voters need to get it to want to voter her back in. Find out why some other moderate isn’t doing what she’s doing won’t save her as they won’t care – they’re not happy with HER, not random other Senator they can’t do anything about.

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  61. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But I remain unconvinced that scuttling the spending bill and protecting the filibuster helps her get renominated.

    I don’t think she wants to scuttle the spending bill. I think she wants the spending bill changed and reduced in scope since that’s what she’s said she wanted. And that hasn’t happened. At least that’s my reading of the tea leaves.

    I suspect the real issue here is that getting the bill to where Sinema and Manchin (and probably other moderates) would like it to be will lose progressive votes which would also scuttle the bill. But it’s hard to figure out exactly what’s going on because the reporting is bad.

    As for the filibuster, I don’t think that will affect her much at all. And there are good practical reasons that a Democrat would not want to get rid of it.

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  62. wr says:

    @Andy: “That’s my annoyance with the media – they aren’t trying to find out if your theory is true or not”

    How do you know what anyone is trying to do? If the people doing the actual work aren’t talking to the press, no one’s making a front-page story out of it.

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  63. wr says:

    @Andy: “As far as I’m aware Kelly, and many other moderates, have not committed to supporting or opposing this bill. It seems reasonable to me to suggest that the media perhaps ought to try to a bit harder to find out exactly where they stand.”

    Apparently you have never been in any kind of negotiation. Or a poker game.

    The congresspeople who have not committed to supporting or opposing the bill are keeping their options open, presumably in order to get the bill closer to where they want it. As long as they are publicly undecided, both sides are going to be working for their vote. If they announce their intentions, they lose all their leverage.

    And it’s quite possible that some are waiting to make up their mind until there’s actually a bill to decide about.

    You have this weird notion that everyone has secretly declared their intentions, but the press has chosen not to look into this. That makes no sense at all.

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  64. Andy says:

    @KM:

    I’m going to be honest here – this sounds like fishing for justification for clearly odd behavior on Sinema’s part. It’s not really an analysis as you say so much as rebuttal of why are we singling out the person making a scene of themselves?

    My point is that it’s only odd behavior from a certain point of view. If you agree with that view – fine – but there are alternatives to consider that I think better fit what little real evidence we have.

    @Jen:

    Well, as someone who lived in Arizona (albeit for a short time) and who has family currently there, and who used to work in politics…she strikes me as someone who is misreading the room, and badly.

    Then I guess we’ll find out in 2024.

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  65. wr says:

    @Andy: “I think she wants the spending bill changed and reduced in scope since that’s what she’s said she wanted. And that hasn’t happened.”

    The trouble is that for all her braying, she has never actually indicated what she wants to see in the bill. She has announced no legislative priorities. She’s complained about the price tag — that’s it. And that’s a good reason she seems not to be bargaining in good faith — it’s all “I don’t like it, change it to something that makes me happy — you can figure it out.”

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  66. Michael Cain says:

    @wr:
    When I worked on the budget staff for my state’s legislature, there were members like that: “I don’t care what you cut, but the total has to be $X smaller.” If $X meant a 10% cut, and anyone pushed them hard enough, they would snap, “Cut everything by 10%!” At the state level that generally wasn’t possible because so much of the spending came with strings attached. Eg, if we were already spending the minimum allowed by some clause in the state constitution or federal statute for some program, the legislature couldn’t cut it. Congress isn’t nearly so constrained.

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  67. Beth says:

    @Andy:

    And there are good practical reasons that a Democrat would not want to get rid of it.

    There are no good reasons, let alone practical reasons, that would make a Democrat want to keep the filibuster around. Sure, there’s a bunch of fantasy nonsense and insane rationalization, but there are no good reasons to keep it around. Especially if you want to govern at all.

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  68. Andy says:

    @Beth:

    There are no good reasons, let alone practical reasons, that would make a Democrat want to keep the filibuster around. Sure, there’s a bunch of fantasy nonsense and insane rationalization, but there are no good reasons to keep it around. Especially if you want to govern at all.

    The practical reason is that the GoP currently has a structural advantage in the Senate, so if you get rid of the filibuster, the GoP will have more opportunity to take advantage of it.

    For a recent historical example, see the judicial filibuster and the current state of the judiciary and Supreme Court.

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  69. Beth says:

    @Andy:

    You are assuming that I haven’t already considered that or don’t understand that. In any event, my point still stands. 1. If the Republicans win elections, then they have the right to govern, even as poorly as they will. 2. This system we have now where if Republican win elections then they can govern, but if they lose elections, they can blow up the world economy in vengeance is untenable. I go back to the point I made a couple of days ago, it’s beyond time to shoot the hostage.

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  70. Andy says:

    @Beth:

    The point is that it’s not an unreasonable position for a Democrat to not want to uncase a weapon that Republicans will likely be able to take better advantage of. I understand that you do not agree with that view. I’m not a fan of the filibuster either, but I can understand why some want to preserve it for the cited reason.

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  71. wr says:

    @Andy: “I’m not a fan of the filibuster either, but I can understand why some want to preserve it for the cited reason.”

    Except that a Democratic senator, having seen how McConnell has violated every norm, from refusing to hold hearings on Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court to rushing through Barrett in the middle of the election, would have to be a total moron to think that if they keep the filibuster McConnell will honor it if he becomes the majority leader again and it stands in his way.

    Maybe Sinema really is that stupid. But that’s hardly an argument in her favor.

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  72. Jax says:

    Mitch McConnell would absolutely shoot the hostage if that’s what it took to get his way. Despite the structural advantages in the Senate, I have come to the conclusion that if we nuke the filibuster, we might as well pack the Supreme Court (and split the 9th), and make the House more representative to population while we’re at it, none of which I was necessarily a fan of until, well….NOW, when Republicans are willing to nuke the entire US economy for political purposes. They want to burn it down, let’s burn it down and see what rises out of the ashes.

    Do I realize we don’t have the votes for that? Yes. But Mitch is gonna burn it all down with even LESS votes. How is that fair?!

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  73. Andy says:

    @wr:

    And yet McConnell had the chance to do just that while Trump was in office and didn’t, even when Trump attacked him for not getting rid of it.

    The future is obviously uncertain, and McConnell is many things – and one of those many things is that he has long been one of the filibuster’s biggest supporters.

    In other news, Biden today is trying to mend fences and create a compromise between moderates and progressives. The official list of attendees is interesting.

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  74. Jax says:

    @Andy: Just so you know, Andy, I value your input here, even when your common sense pisses me off because it isn’t what I want to hear right at this moment. 😉

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  75. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    The future is obviously uncertain, and McConnell is many things – and one of those many things is that he has long been one of the filibuster’s biggest supporters.

    The filibuster is a pretty good thing to have if you have no real ideas, and don’t want to govern.

    And that really is the Republican Party these days — devoid of ideas, and enamored of power for its own sake. What’s the Republican plan for the opioid epidemic? It’s hitting rural communities very hard, and they have no interest. They just don’t want Democrats to be able to take credit for attempting to do anything to help abate it.

    They’ve been opposed to abortion for the past 50 years, but have never had to deliver because of the filibuster. Roe v. Wade is likely to fall this year because of the courts, but the Republicans did everything they could to milk abortion as an issue and deliver nothing for decades.

    The Republican plan to increase insurance coverage is to decide that uninsured Americans being crippled by medical debt isn’t a problem. And the Republican plan to stop a pandemic is to not bother and let the hospitals get overcrowded so more people die*.

    If we get rid of the filibuster, then the next time Republicans are in power, they will actually have to deliver something. And McConnell has no interest in that. So, he loves the filibuster.

    In other news, Biden today is trying to mend fences and create a compromise between moderates and progressives. The official list of attendees is interesting.

    Yes, Biden has been a deal maker for decades, and is getting people into a room to try to make a deal. Not sure why that is surprising. And the official list of attendees isn’t interesting — it’s a bunch of congress critters.

    When he has Mark Twain exhumed, mummified, and added to the discussions, that will be interesting. Even just the casket in the middle of the room would be interesting.

    —-
    *: I wish they would hurry up about it. I’m not planning on having a heart attack or anything, but I would like the option of an ICU bed if I do have one.

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  76. @Andy:

    I don’t think she wants to scuttle the spending bill. I think she wants the spending bill changed and reduced in scope since that’s what she’s said she wanted. And that hasn’t happened. At least that’s my reading of the tea leaves.

    I will grant that if she simply ends up being doing all of this as a negotiation tactic (which may be the case), then all well and good. My point was that if she scuttles the spending bill (as she did the minimum wage hike) that won’t do her any favors in the Democratic primary.

    As for the filibuster, I don’t think that will affect her much at all. And there are good practical reasons that a Democrat would not want to get rid of it.

    That a Democrat might have good reasons for being pro-filibuster is not the issue. The question is: what is the Democratic primary electorate’s likely support for the filibuster and what will they think of a candidate who is demonstrably pro-filibuster? And, I would note, that her reasons, at least as publicly stated, have not been very good.

    Put another way: there is growing frustration among core Democratic voters on the fact they have more public support but lack the power to govern and the filibuster is emblematic of that. Going back to AZ Democrats and telling them that she is one of a handful of Dems who are helping keep Dems from governing is not going to be an easy sell (at least, it is going to earn her a serious primary challenge–and that is main point).

    Also, I would ask: what is her pro-filibuster position getting the people of AZ? (I can see what Manchin is getting for WV, but less so for AZ).

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  77. @Andy:

    The practical reason is that the GoP currently has a structural advantage in the Senate, so if you get rid of the filibuster, the GoP will have more opportunity to take advantage of it.

    BTW: the is a terrible argument.

    Keeping the filibuster means that Dems are almost certainly barred from their primary legislative goals, which involve pro-active governance. That is, when in the majority (and in control of the H, S and WH), they still can’t govern unless they have an almost impossible 60 seats in the Senate.

    For the Reps: they can block Dem governing when in the minority, and can simply not govern when in the majority (save for judges and tweaking the tax code and budget via reconciliation).

    This is not a co-equal tool in terms of goals.

    (I could go on, but time does not permit).

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  78. Andy says:

    @Gustopher:

    Yes, Biden has been a deal maker for decades, and is getting people into a room to try to make a deal. Not sure why that is surprising. And the official list of attendees isn’t interesting — it’s a bunch of congress critters.

    I never said it was a surprise, I was just noting it. IMO, it’s good that he’s being active in trying to create a political compromise here.

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  79. Andy says:

    I went to edit my comment to Steven and it disappeared. Here it is again – sorry for the double-post if the first one gets resurrected somehow.

    @Jax:

    Thanks, I appreciate that!

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I will grant that if she simply ends up being doing all of this as a negotiation tactic (which may be the case), then all well and good. My point was that if she scuttles the spending bill (as she did the minimum wage hike) that won’t do her any favors in the Democratic primary.

    The thing about moderate politicians from either party, especially in today’s political environment, is they have to thread a needle that politicians in safe seats do not. In the case of a Manchin or Sinema, they have to be left enough to protect themselves from being primaried but also stay right enough to be competitive in the general election. Politicians in safe seats (ie. pretty much all progressives on the Democratic side) don’t have to worry about the general election, they only have to worry about being primaried.

    For someone like Manchin especially, the bigger political threat is obviously the general election. He’s in a very red state. Supporting what is perceived (accurately or not) as a progressive legislative agenda would be committing political seppuku. That’s the reality that people like Josh Marshall don’t realize. Or, if they realize that, then they are perfectly happy to sacrifice Manchin in particular, or moderate Democrats in general, in order to get this one piece of legislation passed. This is why the Obamacare case is relevant here. Moderates got decimated in the next cycle, those in safe seats are largely still around.

    Moderates are – politically – simply less able to compromise. Sinema or Manchin could certainly lose in the general election for supporting a huge progressive spending bill that’s unpopular with their constituents. By contrast, progressives will be safe in their seats if the bill is 2 trillion or 6 trillion. But progressives have made it clear they won’t go below 3.5t. And Sinema, at least, has consistently said that 3.5 is too much. Hence the current impasse that Biden tried to deal with last night because neither side is willing to budge.

    If we had strong parties in this country, the party leadership would have the authority and tools to force a compromise on this split. But of course, that’s not happening because we don’t.

    The question is: what is the Democratic primary electorate’s likely support for the filibuster and what will they think of a candidate who is demonstrably pro-filibuster? And, I would note, that her reasons, at least as publicly stated, have not been very good.

    I don’t think the average voter knows much or cares much about the filibuster. I don’t think any Senator is going to win or lose based on the filibuster – that is way too inside-baseball for the average voter.

    BTW: the is a terrible argument.

    Except the arguments you are making now are the same arguments made with respect to judicial filibusters and look how that turned out. The rosy assumptions about getting rid of the judicial filibuster turned out not to be true. I simply think it is foolish to assume that this time it will work out better for Democrats. Maybe it will, but the math of the Senate strongly suggests that the GoP will benefit more from it. But if Democrats want to take that risk, I certainly have no objections. I’m happy to get rid of the filibuster and think it is an anachronism.

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  80. Jen says:

    @Andy:

    The thing about moderate politicians from either party, especially in today’s political environment, is they have to thread a needle that politicians in safe seats do not. […]

    For someone like Manchin especially, the bigger political threat is obviously the general election. […]

    Moderates are – politically – simply less able to compromise. […]

    I’m in New Hampshire, in the flip-floppiest CD1. US Senate seat currently held by Maggie Hassan is up this year, and (very popular) Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is expected to run for the seat (if his recent hospitalization for a bleeding ulcer attributed to stress doesn’t get in the way). And yet, Sen. Hassan doesn’t appear to be in this same pickle.

    This is a long way of saying: there are plenty of moderate Dems out there who aren’t creating these issues for themselves. It stands to reason then, that there’s something at play with Manchin and Sinema that is specific to them, and it’s not that “the media” is somehow out to get these two specifically.

    I think they are both trying to leverage their opposition.

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  81. Andy says:

    @Jen:

    This is a long way of saying: there are plenty of moderate Dems out there who aren’t creating these issues for themselves. It stands to reason then, that there’s something at play with Manchin and Sinema that is specific to them, and it’s not that “the media” is somehow out to get these two specifically.

    That certainly could be true! It could also be true that the differences are more about the composition and political culture of the states.

    And it could also be true that like Mark Kelly, Hassan is not saying anything because she’s up for election next year. A quote from a recent Politico article:

    One centrist Democrat up for reelection next year, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), declined to say whether she’s comfortable with the $3.5 trillion spending number on Monday, or whether she agrees with pausing the legislation.

    IOW, moderates like Sinema and Manchin can politically afford to be the public face of opposition – other moderates like Hassan and Kelly cannot. Hence why they have neither agreed to support or oppose the bill and also don’t want to talk about it at all.

    So all these are possibilities and there are probably more. And it may be the case that each potential explanation plays a part.

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  82. wr says:

    @Andy: “Moderates are – politically – simply less able to compromise. ”

    And yet… most of the so-called “moderates” in the House that keep trying to tank reconciliation and do all sorts of wonderful things like keep Medicare from negotiating drug prices are from completely safe blue districts. The actual endangered moderates are, for the most part, on board.

    Because endangered moderates understand if their sole legislative accomplishment was keeping anything from being done, there is simply no reason for anyone on either side to vote for her. Democrats will turn on them in disgust, Republicans won’t give them any respect, and independents will refuse to vote for a politician asking to be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to do nothing.

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  83. Gustopher says:

    @Andy:

    Except the arguments you are making now are the same arguments made with respect to judicial filibusters and look how that turned out. The rosy assumptions about getting rid of the judicial filibuster turned out not to be true.

    Voter’s actions are beginning to have consequences, and the courts are being filled so the backlog of cases is beginning to get addressed.

    That seems like a pretty rosy scenario to me.

    It might lead to a ban on abortion, which most polling shows will be very unpopular, but that falls onto the voters for voting for Senators who keep saying that we need to ban abortion. Maybe don’t do that?

    Connecting up a feedback loop from voter’s votes to the actions of the government is a very good thing.

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  84. Andy says:

    @wr:

    And yet… most of the so-called “moderates” in the House that keep trying to tank reconciliation

    Again, I don’t agree that’s what’s happening here. The moderates appear to want a much smaller bill. More and more it’s looking like the total size is the issue. And the sides are entrenched. Progressives have consistently stated they won’t go below 3.5t and moderates have stated that 3.5 is too much.

    @Gustopher:

    I basically agree with that, but it’s a view that’s not shared by many Democrats.

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  85. wr says:

    @Andy: “. More and more it’s looking like the total size is the issue.”

    Really? The fact that three “moderates” in safe blue seats who have collected taken 1.8 million from Big Pharma have said they will tank the reconciliation bill if Medicare is allowed to negotiate drug prices — which, by the way, is one of the big pay-fors in the bill — strikes you as evidence that what they really want is a smaller bill? Even though they’re making it much more expensive?

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