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Sinema censured by Arizona Democrats over filibuster stance that blocked voting rights legislation

By Veronica Stracqualursi, Daniella Diaz and Ethan Cohen, CNN

The Arizona Democratic Party’s executive board announced Saturday it formally censured Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for voting to maintain the Senate’s filibuster rules, effectively blocking Democrats’ voting legislation, a key priority for the party.

The symbolic gesture Saturday from Arizona Democrats adds to the mounting pressure Sinema is facing from those in her state who helped her flip a Senate seat in 2018. Sinema — who started her political career as a progressive — has been a target on the left during Biden’s administration for her stances.

Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both centrists, were the only two Democrats on Wednesday to join all Republicans in voting to maintain the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster on legislation. Democrats had sought to change the Senate rules, so they could pass voting rights legislation with just 51 votes.

“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,” Arizona Democratic Party Chair Raquel Terán said in a statement, following a meeting of the executive board Saturday morning.

“I want to be clear, the Arizona Democratic Party is a diverse coalition with plenty of room for policy disagreements, however on the matter of the filibuster and the urgency to protect voting rights, we have been crystal clear,” Terán said. “In the choice between an archaic legislative norm and protecting Arizonans’ right to vote, we choose the latter, and we always will.”

In a statement Saturday, Sinema’s office defended her record.

“During three terms in the U.S. House, and now in the Senate, Kyrsten has always promised Arizonans she would be an independent voice for the state — not for either political party. She’s delivered for Arizonans and has always been honest about where she stands,” Sinema spokesperson Hannah Hurley said.

While she backs Democrats’ voting rights proposals, Sinema said in a statement Wednesday she maintained her longstanding opposition to “actions that would deepen our divisions and risk repeated radical reversals in federal policy, cementing uncertainty and further eroding confidence in our government.”

Arizona Democratic Party’s state committee members in September had approved a resolution outlining potential action the party would take against Sinema if she “does not vote in favor of Filibuster reform” to allow the passage of voting rights legislation. The resolution also allowed for the executive board to issue a formal letter of censure to Sinema with the “clear understanding that she could potentially lose the support of the ADP in 2024.”

Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated with Sinema and Manchin in recent months as they continue to vote against the wishes of Democratic leaders while the party has a slim majority in the House and Senate — which they could possibly lose in the upcoming 2022 midterms.

CNN reported this week Arizona Democrat Rep. Ruben Gallego has been getting calls from others in the party, including Sinema’s Senate colleagues, urging him to run against her. Gallego told CNN Sinema could be vulnerable in a primary.

Following Sinema’s censure, Gallego delivered pointed attacks against her Saturday on MSNBC.

“This is a call from Arizonans asking for her to pay attention, to recognize the danger this will country is in, and that she is not being responsive to them. And it’s not just based on her opposition to the civil rights or her support for the filibuster, but also the fact she just has not been involved in Arizona in quite a while and again is being dismissive of Arizonans,” Gallego said.

Sinema is up for re-election in 2024. Gallego said he is focused on the midterm election this year and will decide about a challenge to Sinema in 2024.

Sinema was also a critic of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act’s original $3.5 trillion price tag, which could also only be passed with 51 votes, and pushed to pare down the cost.

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CNN’s Colin McCullough contributed to this report.

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