Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema, one of the most conservative members of the Senate’s Democratic caucus, is the subject of much consternation among her colleagues, angry at Ms Sinema for thwarting progress on President Joe Biden’s legislative plan to update America’s infrastructure and expand many social programs.
The senator is one of two holdouts seen as standing in the way of the passage of a $3.5 trillion bill, set to work its way through the Senate via reconciliation, a procedural tactic requiring a bare 51-vote majority rather than the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. The other Democratic lawmaker is West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who comes from a far more conservative state than Ms Sinema.
Ms Sinema’s state, Arizona, voted for Mr Biden in the 2020 presidential election, and the state’s other US senator has already committed to voting for the legislation. Mr Manchin is also seen by Senate Democratic leadership as more likely at the present time to vote for the bill, putting the focus squarely on Ms Sinema’s shoulders.
That anger felt by progressives exploded on to Twitter and in the press this week, as House members pilloried Ms Sinema and Mr Manchin alike for the sheer evasiveness with which they have responded to questions from the media and their own colleagues regarding their specific issues with the $3.5 trillion bill.
“The President keeps begging her, tell us what you want. Put a proposal forward,” Rep Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, told CNN on Tuesday.
“One Senator, Kyrsten Sinema, is holding up the will of the entire Democratic Party,” he said, adding, “Why is it that one senator should have this much power? We’re in a democracy.”
“We still have had no interaction, no negotiation with Senators Manchin and Sinema on what is it that they do like. We know what they don't like,” said Rep Pramila Jayapal, chair of the House Progressive Caucus and a leader of the House Democrats vowing to oppose the compromise bill if the reconciliation package doesn’t pass first.
“But what do they want to do of the Democratic agenda?" she added during an MSNBC interview.
Many House Democrats have vowed to stand up to the pair with their own promise to vote against a separate $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure compromise package passed through normal means in the Senate in August.
For months, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had insisted that she stood with progressives and would not bring up the compromise package until the reconciliation bill passed; now, she faces a massive rebellion in her caucus threatening to tank the compromise bill if she does not hold to the plan of voting on the reconciliation bill first.
The fates of both bills now remain uncertain, and the White House has met with Ms Sinema, Mr Manchin, Ms Pelosi as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer all within the past 24 hours.