This week is a stark reminder that U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is loyal first and foremost to her political career, and not to her party, as she has reportedly pledged to Republican leader Mitch McConnell that she won’t join with her Democratic colleagues to eliminate the Senate’s filibuster rule. That rule effectively means that any proposal has to win 60 votes to pass, a tall order in the current climate, in which the parties are sharply divided and the filibuster has been weaponized over the past 20 years and used to block even routine legislation.
Sinema refusing to scrap the filibuster rule allows that gridlock to continue, and means Republicans can block most anything Democrats want to do. And while it will enrage the Left, you can bet Sinema’s move is calculated: She knows that her path to victory in 2018 and to retaining her seat in 2024 (as well as any future endeavors in Arizona politics) depend on winning support from voters who aren’t dyed-in-the-wool partisans — and from moderate Republicans and right-leaning independents. Ending the filibuster has obvious upside for Democrats, but there’s no question that it’s a radical change in how the Senate operates. And if there’s one thing she will studiously avoid to protect her political brand as an “independent voice for Arizona,” it’s backing a procedural move that will upset the status quo and give credible ammunition to her GOP opponents that she did something truly “radical” to boost the Left.