IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The problem(s) with Sinema’s ‘incredibly unpopular’ idea

If you want a less efficient Senate, more filibusters and a model that treats voters like children, Kyrsten Sinema has a plan you're going to love.


The fact that Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema spoke Monday at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, and was welcomed by the institution’s namesake — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — is not necessarily controversial. Other Democrats have made similar appearances, including then-Vice President Joe Biden in 2011.

Rather, the problem was with the substance of the Arizonan’s remarks. HuffPost reported:

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said Monday that she supports restoring elements of the filibuster to processes where it’s been eliminated — namely, the confirmation of Supreme Court justices and federal judges — rather than dispose of it entirely, as some in her party have said needs to be done in order to overcome Republican obstructionism.

At face value, perhaps it shouldn’t have been too surprising to hear the centrist senator make such a case. Sinema has been unwavering in her support for filibusters, going so far last year as to manufacture historical falsehoods and push a fake version of American history in order to support her case for the tactic.

What was striking yesterday, however, was just how far the senator was willing to go — and the kind of justifications she touted in defense of her vision.

Sinema wants more filibusters, not fewer: “Not only am I committed to the 60-vote threshold, I have an incredibly unpopular view,” the senator declared. “I actually think we should restore the 60-vote threshold for the areas in which it has been eliminated already. We should restore it.”

In response to unprecedented Republican abuses, Democrats reformed institutional rules and made it so that cabinet officials and judicial nominees could be confirmed by way of majority rule. Sinema wants to roll back the clock and undo those changes. This wouldn’t just open the door to more filibusters, it would also make it so that American presidents couldn’t fill judicial vacancies or fill cabinet slots.

Sinema equated voters with children: “Those of you who are parents in the room know, the best thing you can do for your child is not give them everything they want,” Sinema said. “And that’s important to the United States Senate as well.”

In other words, American voters — each of whom, by law, are adults — may elect one party to advance a policy agenda, but in Sinema’s vision, the wishes of her country’s electorate should be ignored if the minority party says so. As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes put it, the senator’s choice of metaphors was revealing: “Sinema and others like her are the Grown Ups. And We The People are spoiled children constantly asking for things.”

Sinema sees McConnell as an institutionalist: “Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship, one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, [and] our respect for the Senate as an institution,” she said.

The problem, of course, is that in reality, few Americans have ever done more damage to the way in which the institution operates than McConnell.

Sinema wants a less efficient Senate: The Arizonan conceded that if the chamber operated by her preferred rules, “it would make it harder for us to confirm judges, and it would make it harder for us to confirm executive appointments in each administration.” Sinema wants this model to be adopted anyway.

At the heart of the senator’s pitch was a curious mistrust of democracy. Sinema wants less majority rule, not more. She apparently believes the will of voters should be restrained through anti-democratic legislative roadblocks that don’t exist in the Constitution, and which were rejected by those who created the pillars of our system of government.

Sinema, for reasons I find difficult to understand, believes more should be done to encourage Senate abuses, empower abusers, and shift more authority away from those who win elections. The more she publicly espouses such ideas, the harder it is to believe she’ll win a Democratic primary in 2024.