Over the weekend, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) praised the Arizona Democratic Party for censuring Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) over her obstruction of federal voting rights.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sanders called Sinema’s vote in the Senate last week against filibuster changes to allow the passage of voting rights legislation “terrible.”
Certain Republican states “are moving in a very, very anti-democratic way,” he said. “It was absolutely imperative that we change the rules so we could pass strong voting rights legislation. All Republicans voted against us, two Democrats voted against us – that was a terrible, terrible vote.”
“I think what the Arizona Democratic Party did was exactly right,” Sanders concluded.
Last week, Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) voted against a proposal to enact a talking filibuster for Democrats’ voting rights bill, which would allow the Senate to pass the measure with a simple majority vote. It was a last-ditch effort to protect voting rights as Republicans shred them to pieces.
The Arizona Democratic Party announced that it had voted to censure Sinema on Saturday after months of frustration with the senator’s obstinate defense of the filibuster.
“[T]he Arizona Democratic Party is a diverse coalition with plenty of room for policy disagreements,” party chair Raquel Terán said in a statement. “[H]owever on the matter of the filibuster and the urgency to protect voting rights, we have been crystal clear.” Terán said that, while the party supports Democratic candidates, the consequences of Sinema’s “failure” to protect voting rights are too dire to ignore.
The state party has expressed frustration over the senator’s obstruction before. Last year, it threatened to hold a vote of “no confidence” for Sinema’s filibuster defense, which has caused a near-absolute deadlock in the Senate over Democratic priorities.
A censure is largely a symbolic ruling that does not carry formal consequences in this instance. However, it is a strong rebuke to Sinema, as her own party essentially rules to stand against her, and will likely fuel a primary campaign to unseat her when she’s up for reelection in 2024.
In October, a poll found that, if the election were held soon, Sinema would easily be defeated by Democratic challengers. In a head-to-head race against Ruben Gallego, an early favorite to primary the senator, Sinema loses 62 to 23 percent, according to the poll.
Sanders told reporters last week that he would be open to supporting a candidate who ran against her. In a video posted to his Twitter, he said that it was “pathetic” that Sinema and Manchin would vote to obstruct voting rights during such a crucial time for the country.
However, with Sinema and Manchin not up for reelection for another two years, Sanders is saying that it’s crucial for their stances to be made clear now. In interviews and an op-ed in CNN last week, Sanders has made it clear that he thinks more Democratic agenda items should be put to a vote so that voters can clearly see what the conservative Democrats oppose.
“Funny things happen when a bill gets to the floor,” Sanders said on “Meet the Press.” “Let’s put a strong bill on the floor. And if Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema want to vote against it whatever, Republicans want to vote against it – we can go from there. But what we cannot continue to do, in my view, is these endless backroom negotiations. The American people have got to see where we are.”