“‘I’ve only known Kyrsten for four years, but she is, in my view, and I’ve told her this before, the most effective first-term senator I’ve seen in my time in the Senate. She is today what we have too few of in the Democratic Party: a genuine moderate and a deal maker.’”
— Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
That line above from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came Monday as he praised Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona at an event at the University of Louisville.
The Kentucky Republican, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 1985, went on to commend her view that their chamber shouldn’t eliminate its filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate on most items. McConnell said former President Donald Trump “would harangue me on virtually a weekly basis about trying to lower the threshold,” and now Democrats are pushing the same idea.
“It took one hell of a lot of guts for Kyrsten Sinema to stand up and say, ‘I’m not going to break the institution in order to achieve a short-term goal,’” he said.
McConnell’s remarks came as he introduced the Arizona senator ahead of her lecture at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. As Sinema began her speech, she noted that she and McConnell have formed a strong friendship despite their political differences.
“At first glance, Sen. McConnell and I have relatively little — or some could even say nothing — in common,” she said. “For starters, he drinks bourbon, I drink wine. He’s from the Southeast and I’m from the great Southwest. He wears suits and ties, and I wear dresses and these fierce sneakers. Perhaps most obviously, we come from opposing political parties.”
“But despite our apparent differences, Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship — one that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, our respect for the Senate as an institution, our love for our home states and a dogged determination on behalf of our constituents,” she continued.
In her speech, Sinema focused on the effectiveness of bipartisan work and argued that the 60-vote threshold in the Senate promotes compromise and long-lasting solutions.
“From my experience, everyday Americans don’t immediately retreat to their partisan corners in their day-to-day life. In fact, most of us believe that those partisan labels needlessly divide us,” Sinema said, underscoring that she doesn’t think the partisan divide in Washington is reflective of most communities.
“Cable news pundits, outside groups and some political leaders on both sides of the aisle have let the loudest and most extreme voices in each party dominate the discourse and set the agenda because it stokes anger and it gets tweets, views, clicks, but it doesn’t solve problems,” she added.
Sinema noted bipartisan work on the CHIPS
and Science Act, the infrastructure
law and Ukraine aid
as successful examples, and highlighted the bipartisan work she was involved in following the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The legislation that came out of those bipartisan talks contained provisions to enhance background checks for gun buyers under age 21 and make it easier to take guns from individuals threatening to kill themselves or others, and it included $11 billion for mental-health services.
“We viewed our conversations as collaborations, not negotiations, and we refused to frame our work as giving up something to get something in return, but stayed laser-focused on our shared goal of reducing violence across American communities,” Sinema said Monday of that work.
She argued that such bipartisan efforts in the Senate are necessary to achieve any meaningful change.
“It’s the easiest thing in the world for politicians to stay in their partisan corners, to line up on their respective sides of every battle,” she said. “But what’s harder is getting out of our comfort zones and forming coalitions with unlikely allies that can achieve lasting and durable results.”
Related: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema says she won’t support ‘short-sighted’ filibuster changes
And see: Sinema took Wall Street money while killing tax on investors