PHOENIX — Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema took to the well of the U.S. Senate Thursday, announcing her support for both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
But the senator said she will not change her mind on her Democratic colleagues' attempt to circumvent Senate rules and change the 60-vote threshold needed to pass the voting rights legislation.
"These bills help treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not fully address it. And while i continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country," Sinema said.
President Joe Biden went to the Senate Thursday after Sinema's speech, hoping to make his case to change filibuster rules to circumvent Republicans and pass the voting rights legislation.
"It’s about election subversion, not just whether or not people get to vote. Who counts the vote? That’s what this about," President Biden said. "That’s what makes this so different than anything else we’ve ever done. I don’t know if we can get it done, but I know one thing, as long as I have a breath in me, as long as I’m in the White House, as long as I’m engaged at all, I’m going to be fighting to change the way these legislatures are moving.”
Among Arizona Democrats, Sinema's decision was greeted with disappointment and resentment.
"This is not a divisive issue, this is about the future of democracy," State Party Chairwoman Raquel Teran said. "Without the protection of voting rights, democracy fails. We are disappointed, to say the least, that she has chosen to protect an antiquated rule over her constituents."
In a statement, Fred Yamashita, the Executive Director for AFL-CIO in Arizona said, "her decision to protect the filibuster to the detriment of our democracy is devastating."
State Representative Reginald Bolding, the House Minority leader challenged the Senator to "step outside the D.C. bubble and take a closer look around her state and her country."
"Those rights are being systematically rolled back now, here and in state legislatures around the country," Bolding said. "Given the choice to cement the legacy of John Lewis or stomp on it, I will never understand the speech Senator Sinema delivered today."
There is still time for Sinema to change her mind. The vote on changing the filibuster is Monday, the Martin Luther King holiday. But that seems unlikely after Thursday.
"I share the disappointment of many that we have not found more support on the other side of the aisle for legislative responses to state-level voting restrictions. I wish that were not the case," Sinema said. "Just as I wish there had been a more serious effort on the part of Democratic party leaders to sit down with the other party and genuinely discuss how to re-forge common ground on these issues."