Progressive activists protested Tuesday in Phoenix against U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona over her less than progressive stances, while she's receiving praise from anti-LGBTQ+ leader Brian Brown for her support for the Senate filibuster, which is creating a roadblock to the Equality Act.
Demonstrators from the Working Families Party gathered at the Arizona state capitol to highlight Sinema's opposition to some aspects of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan, saying she is betraying the people who elected her. Sinema, a Democrat, narrowly won her election to the Senate in 2018, becoming the first out bisexual member of that chamber, after having been the first out bisexual member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Since, she has emerged as one of the more conservative Democratic senators. Sources recently told Politico that she opposes a plan to let Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices, which would save the government billions and free up money to fund other social programs. The plan is part of the budget reconciliation bill currently pending in the Senate; Sinema, one of the biggest recipients of pharmaceutical company contributions, has not commented on the record about it. It's also been reported that she told Biden she won't support the budget reconciliation bill overall if a bill on rebuilding infrastructure isn't passed first. The infrastructure bill is set for a vote next week.
In addition, she and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia have continued to support the Senate filibuster, a procedure under which 60 senators must vote to end debate on a bill and move to a vote on the actual bill. Progressive measures like the Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination nationwide, have little chance of winning those 60 votes, as Democrats and their allied independents hold only 50 Senate seats.
Surrounding an ice sculpture of Sinema as it melted in the Phoenix sun, members of the Working Families Party, which advocates for progressive candidates and legislation, blasted her as a betrayer.
"Where are you, Sen. Sinema? Now that we need you," said Dolores Huerta, cofounder of the National Farm Workers Association. "We need you to stand up for all of us right now. People believed in you. They sent you to Congress. Now it's time for you to act, not just for the people of Arizona but for the people in the United States of America. People are suffering and we need you to stand up."
"We need Sen. Sinema to deliver for Arizona, not for special interests," added Rebecca Rios, an Arizona state senator. "We call upon her to once again be bold and fight for the working families of Arizona."
Natalia Salgado, director of federal affairs for the Working Families Party, joined in the criticism of Sinema during a phone interview with The Advocate. Sinema is going against the people who elected her, Salgado said, and blocking progress. "For her to be the person to stand in the way of that ... that is untenable to us," she said.
Asked if the Working Families Party, which often works within the Democratic Party, would support a primary challenge to Sinema in 2024, Salgado took a wait-and-see attitude. "We will see what the next week or so will indicate to us," she said.
Meanwhile, anti-LGBTQ+ activist Brown has sent out a fundraising email asking his supporters to buttress Sinema and Manchin's opposition to ending the filibuster. The filibuster "has blocked much of [Biden's] agenda from advancing -- including the disastrous Equality Act," Brown wrote in an email obtained by JoeMyGod. Brown heads the National Organization for Marriage, established to oppose marriage equality, but having lost that battle, it has continued to oppose other LGBTQ+ advances. NOM has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a progressive watchdog organization.
The Advocate has sought comment from Sinema on these developments but has yet to receive a response. She did defend her support for the filibuster in a Washington Post op-ed published Tuesday. The Democrats have not always held a majority in the Senate, she said, and when they've been in the minority, the filibuster has helped block Republican-backed legislation. Overall, she wrote, it has forced bipartisan cooperation. "The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles," she said.