Kyrsten Sinema's Filibuster Logic is Flawed

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has spent most of 2021 establishing that she doesn’t really care about her constituents. She made a show out of rejecting the $15 minimum wage proposal in the American Rescue Plan, continues siding with big business on the PRO Act, and sports dismissive jewelry to hammer the point home that the people she serves don’t much matter to her.

So it follows that Sinema’s logic on the filibuster is completely absurd.

Democrats desperately need to abolish the filibuster if they want to pass any major legislation going forward. Leaving it in place essentially allows Republicans to dictate the terms of engagement and bide their time until trying to take back control of Congress in 2022. Dems keeping the filibuster is the political equivalent of punting on first down. And Sinema’s reasoning—that eliminating the filibuster would go against America’s democratic ideals—is like a football coach saying his team’s just there to have fun and follow the rules. Her logic is even more specious when you actually listen to her, though. Look at the quote below, which NBC News’ Sahil Kapur included in his tweet (first published by Rafael Carranza of the Arizona Republic).

Sinema’s saying that broken systems can only be fixed through a change in behavior. But it’s abundantly unclear whose behavior she means. Is it voters? Misbehaved dogs? Kids in detention? The real answer is anyone but herself. The only way her logic holds water is if the behavioral change happens among people who hold power and can actually change the broken system. She holds that position now, and she knows it well. Her answer is a heaping pile of rhetorical bullshit sprayed with words like “democracy” to make it smell better. But the stink still pushes right on through.

It’s awfully rich that Sinema thinks retaining the filibuster is protecting American democracy while Republicans are openly attacking it from coast to coast. They’ll benefit from her logic, too—Democrats likely can’t pass major voting rights legislation while the filibuster is in place. Without establishing national election standards or other voting rights protections, the GOP could much more easily steal a presidential election in 2024 (or gain key congressional seats in 2022). Voting restrictions currently proposed in several key states could make Trump’s farcical attempt to overturn the 2020 election successful in just a few years. Instead of protecting American democracy, Sinema is actively endangering it.

Does Sinema or her fellow moderate filibuster opponent Joe Manchin realize this? It’s not clear. But what’s become painfully obvious is that Sinema isn’t interested in doing much of anything. Her comments above only make sense from the perspective of a do-nothing senator killing time before taking a cushy lobbying job after she’s left office. It’s not clear what Sinema’s actually protecting beyond her own self-interest.