As perhaps the second-most conservative member of a Democratic Senate caucus that can’t afford to lose a single vote to pass its agenda, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema has a great deal of leverage. Despite her power within the caucus, and despite her record of pointedly staking out her independence from her party, Sinema has been fairly quiet as the razor-thin majority prepared to pass a massive Covid-19 relief and economic stimulus bill.
Now she has begun talking. In a rare-ish interview with Politico, Sinema announced her opposition to including a proposal to raise the hourly minimum wage (gradually) to $15 in the relief bill. “What’s important is whether or not it’s directly related to short-term Covid relief. And if it’s not, then I am not going to support it in this legislation,” she told Politico’s Burgess Everett.
Centrist Democrats representing vulnerable seats have a very strange tendency to search for reasons not to have to do popular things. It would be understandable if moderates like Sinema refused to follow the party when it pursued unpopular or controversial goals, but in real life, the reverse happens regularly. Prior to Sinema coming out against the wage proposal, her fellow conservative Democrat Joe Manchin publicly waffled on the wildly popular proposal to send Americans $2,000 stimulus checks.