As Sinema defies labels and routinely frustrates Democrats with a brand of moderation that breaks from her activist roots in Arizona, something of a Sinema doctrine is emerging in her third year in the Senate, contrasting with Manchin’s constant commentary on Democrats’ agenda.
She prefers to keep her thoughts completely under wraps, confounding people in her party who want public statements detailing her views. She thinks it’s a style that works for her, her state and even her party.
Sinema’s colleagues are warming to it too, particularly after she negotiated a prescription drug reform deal that’s being added to the roughly $1.75 trillion spending bill. Though it falls short of progressive hopes of huge reform, she believes it balances lowering costs for seniors without stifling innovation, according to an aide.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) described Sinema as “very focused” and consistent. “It’s always frustrating to negotiate with someone with whom you have differences,” Warren said. “That’s the nature of the beast. But she clearly wants to make a deal and I respect that.”
“She definitely cuts a different profile,” added Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who dealt with Sinema extensively on the prescription drugs deal. “But in dealing with her colleagues she’s not the enigma that the punditry wants to make her out to be.”
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.”
She may have a dearth of buddies in the House Progressive Caucus, which repeatedly delayed her infrastructure bill and then nearly sank it when a half-dozen Democrats voted against it. The way she sees it, Biden was able to sign that bill thanks to brave Republicans and the Congressional Black Caucus — not because progressive leaders eventually relented.
The CBC “did a lot of heavy lifting to get that bill across the finish line in the House,” Sinema said. “The 13 Republicans who voted yes on that bill in the House, and many of whom are now receiving death threats, they deserve a much greater share of thanks than they received … Speaker Pelosi did not have the Democratic votes to pass that bill on a one party vote.”