When Jade Duran was younger, she used to spend her weekends knocking on doors to campaign for Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a staunchly moderate Democrat whose vote may determine the fate of a massive Democratic attempt to reform America’s social safety net.
In the wake of Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s iconic “no” vote on a $15 minimum wage and refusal to abolish the filibuster in order to enact new voting rights legislation this year, Ms. Duran, a Democrat and biomedical engineer from Phoenix, decided she’d had enough of it. Ms. Sinema’s Phoenix office has been the site of a continuous series of anti-Sen. Kyrsten Sinema demonstrations since the summer, which have drawn hundreds of liberal voters and civil rights advocates. A total of almost 50 individuals have been detained.
She was detained in July at a protest and later released. “It truly seems like she doesn’t care about her voters,” said Ms. Duran, 33, who was arrested in July during a protest. “I will never vote for her in the future.”
Ms. Sinema, a former school social worker and Green Party activist, rose quickly up the ranks of Arizona politics by campaigning as a passionate nonpartisan who was ready to break with her party’s leadership when the situation demanded it. Maverick is virtually its own political party in a state where John McCain, the Republican senator who died in 2018, is considered a hero. She has garnered support from independent voters and moderate suburban women.
However, Ms. Sinema is now confronted with a growing political uprising at home from people who were previously considered to be among her most ardent supporters. Many of the state’s most ardent Democrats now see her as an obstructionist, whose reluctance to sign on to a major social policy and climate change package has contributed to the demise of the party’s legislative agenda.
Nothing can go forward without the support of Ms. Sinema, one of two prominent Democratic moderates in a Senate that is equally split. While she has expressed skepticism about the bill’s $3.5 trillion price tag and several of its tax-raising measures, which are rejected by all Republicans in Congress, Democrats in Washington and in her home state of Arizona have become more frustrated.
Meanwhile, the other high-profile holdout in the Senate Democrats’ ranks, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, has publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with key elements of the Democratic agenda in statements to throngs of reporters, whereas Ms. Sinema has remained enigmatic and has largely declined to make public statements.
President Joe Biden, senior White House officials, and Democratic leaders have pleaded with the two senators to publicly provide a price tag and key elements of legislation that they might support. However, there has been no evidence that Ms. Sinema is ready to make such a concession, even in private conversations with the government.
Another day of good-faith talks began on Wednesday afternoon when she and a team from the White House met in her office for more than two hours. The conversations, according to a spokesperson for Ms. Sinema, are still ongoing.
That demeanor assisted her in winning election to the Senate in 2018 in a state where voters are approximately divided between 35 percent Republicans, 32 percent Democrats, and 33 percent “other” political parties. Even with the current fervor, Ms. Sinema will not be up for reelection until 2024, despite her current popularity.