Sinema laid out some of her thinking, explaining that she generally supports adding paid leave to the Democrats’ social spending bill but not raising tax rates on corporations and some high-income earners, saying she “will not support tax policies that have a negative impact on our economic climate.” And, unlike her colleague Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), she views the bill’s climate provisions as the “most important part of what is under discussion.”
Yet, even after an extended interview, the first-term Democrat holds onto the air of mystery that’s become a signature part of her political brand. Sinema won’t say she’s running for reelection, nor will she respond to Rep. Ruben Gallego’s (D-Ariz.) flirtations with a primary challenge.
And even though she’s quietly informed Democrats for weeks that she’s supportive of Biden’s social spending and climate bill and publicly signaled she wants to clinch a deal, she still won’t explicitly say she’ll back it — even after the House passed her infrastructure legislation.
“If you're in the middle of negotiating things that are delicate or difficult ... doing it in good faith directly with each other is the best way to get to an outcome,” Sinema said just a few minutes after returning from Biden’s signing ceremony. “I'm still in the process of negotiating the second provision of the president's agenda … and I don't negotiate in the press.”
However, she will criticize her party for its complicity in setting unachievable, sky-high expectations, just like the Republicans who promised to repeal Obamacare under former President Donald Trump. A $3.5 trillion social spending bill, sweeping elections reform, a $15 minimum wage and changes to the filibuster rules were always a long shot with Sinema and Manchin as the definitive Democratic votes in the Senate.
“You’re either honest or you’re not honest. So just tell the truth and be honest and deliver that which you can deliver,” Sinema said. “There's this growing trend of people in both political parties who promise things that cannot be delivered, in order to get the short-term political gain. And I believe that it damages the long-term health of our democracy.”
There are some signs that Sinema’s approach could pay off politically too, provided she survives a primary. A September poll from OH Predictive Insights found she had a 40 percent favorability rating among Republicans, a contrast to fellow Arizonan Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. The same poll found that 73 percent of Republicans viewed Kelly unfavorably.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a prospective successor to McConnell, went as far as to say he “would be surprised if Republicans tried to unseat her” in 2024 if she runs.
Sinema sometimes even serves as a go-between with Republicans for her Democratic colleagues, capitalizing on the years she spent in both the House and Senate cultivating relationships with the GOP. She insists those relationships are not transactional but instead reflect the fact that “I’m a human who has friends.”
This is news. Assuming Sinema either survives a Democratic primary in 2024 or runs as an independent, the GOP might just take a dive and let her win.
That, of course, is what happened in Connecticut in 2006, when Senator Joe Lieberman, running for reelection and still a big supporter of George W. Bush's war in Iraq, lost the Democratic primary and then ran as an independent: The Republican candidate, Alan Schlesinger, all but disappeared, spending only $38,001 on the race (Lieberman and Democratic nominee Ned Lamont each spent millions). In Arizona three years from now, Republicans might well decide to save their money and nod-and-wink to their voters that they should support Sinema, too. (Expect her to make frequent appearances on Fox News during the general election capmaign.)
Why not? On the one thing Republicans really care about -- pampering rich people -- Sinema is in complete agreement with their party. And if she runs indie and they need her in order to attain a Senate majority, I'm sure she'll agree to caucus with them once she's safely reelected. Just don't ask her during the campaign whether she might do that -- she'll undoubtedly say it's a rude question and she's entitled to her privacy.