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Arizona Democrats censure Sen. Kyrsten Sinema over filibuster support

Arizona Democrats formally censured Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Saturday for her vote to preserve the filibuster and refusal to join her Democratic colleagues in carving out an exception to the 60-vote threshold to allow a voting rights bill to pass.

Sinema, who in 2018 became the first Democrat elected to win an open U.S. Senate seat in Arizona since 1976, outraged Democrats across Arizona and around the country on Jan. 20 when she joined with Republicans in blocking the change to the filibuster. Sinema was joined by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, and the move to relax the filibuster failed 48-52.

A week earlier, Sinema took to the Senate floor to denounce Democratic efforts to change the filibuster, saying that the rule fosters bipartisan cooperation and that removing it — or even changing how it functions — would only increase political division in America.

Democrats moved to create an exception in the filibuster rules to allow legislation that expands voting rights to be debated and considered with a simple majority, instead of the supermajority currently required for virtually all measures, because Republicans have been unified in their opposition to a pair of voting rights bills championed by Democrats: the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.

Sinema has publicly supported the bills, but said that she would not change her stance on the filibuster to allow them to pass. (In December 2021, she and Manchin both voted for a carve-out in the filibuster to pass legislation raising the nation’s debt ceiling.)

Last year, the Arizona Democratic Party passed a resolution outlining actions it could take if Sinema backed the filibuster over voting rights legislation. At today’s annual state committee meeting, party leaders voted to censure her.

“In the choice between an archaic legislative norm and protecting Arizonans’ right to vote, we choose the latter, and we always will,” Democratic Party Chairwoman Raquel Terán said in a written statement after the vote.

She added that, although Democrats appreciate Sinema’s work on other legislative issues, “the ramifications of failing to pass federal legislation that protects (people’s) right to vote are too large and far-reaching.”

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“While we take no pleasure in this announcement, the ADP Executive Board has decided to formally censure Senator Sinema as a result of her failure to do whatever it takes to ensure the health of our democracy,” Terán said.

The censure is largely a symbolic move, and Sinema is not the first Arizona senator to be censured by her party: In 2014, the Arizona Republican Party censured Sen. John McCain because of his “liberal” voting record.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.


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Laura Gómez/Arizona Mirror

Protesters with the Arizona Coalition to End the Filibuster gathered outside of Sen. Kysten Sinema’s office in Phoenix on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, to pressure the senator to support ending the filibuster. Phoenix police arrested 10 people at the rally who staged a sit-in.