Senator Kyrsten Sinema participated in a Zoom call with civil rights leaders and the outcome they hoped for didn’t happen. In fact, when the call was reported on Saturday, one person familiar with the call described the activists as “pissed” with her afterward. Martin Luther King III took it a step further and brought his wife and 13-year-old daughter to Arizona. They joined a march in Phoenix Saturday and King spoke at a rally in Eastlake Park.
Eastlake Park was a gathering place for blacks not welcome in other parts of the city during the days of segregation.
The Zoom call was held on Wednesday afternoon but not reported on until yesterday by Politico. A group of civil rights leaders spoke about voting rights legislation in the Senate. The purpose was to pressure her to change her mind about a carve-out in the filibuster rules in order to ram through the legislation that will nationalize all elections in America, diminishing the role of states in the process. Sinema has been clear all along, as has Senator Manchin, that she supports much of the legislation but not changing the filibuster to pass it. Nonetheless, Democrats continue to press her to change her mind.
The efforts to get her to change her mind have failed and you would think that Democrats would get the message. This is a hill on which she has decided to die. She likely realizes that not only is a ‘by any means necessary’ strategy wrong on partisan legislation, especially something as important as voting rights legislation but also there is a red tsunami coming in the mid-term elections this year. Democrats will be in the minority in the House and may also be in the minority in the Senate. Progressives may find themselves on the other side of the filibuster soon enough.
Sinema faces plenty of opposition in her state of Arizona. Progressives who voted for her are angry that she won’t go along to get along in the Senate. They hope to get her out of office in 2024. Participants on the Zoom call with her included Rev. AL Sharpton, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, NAACP Legal Defense Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill, and Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Sinema’s office confirmed the call.
Over the course of an hour, the civil rights leaders impressed upon the Arizona senator that time was running out for voting rights, and that they needed her to support a filibuster carveout for the issue. They wanted Sinema to understand that they felt her stance was divorced from political reality: no major voting rights bill will win 60 votes in this partisan climate. “You cannot say you ‘fought’ [for the bills], and not change the rules to make it happen,” in the words of one person who attended the meeting.
The senator politely listened and held to a message they’d heard from her before. She said she understood where they were coming from, and supports the voting rights bills, but believes that a filibuster carveout would be bad for the country, and that Republicans could well use it to hold a simple-majority vote to undo whatever voting legislation Democrats passed.
Sinema didn’t cave, which should not be a surprise. She is said to have listened “politely” but she repeated her message – she understands their desire for the legislation to pass in the Senate and she supports the bills. It’s the tactic she objects to because she knows that Republicans can use simple-majority votes to undo whatever is passed down the road.
Then, on Thursday, Sinema delivered her speech on the Senate floor in which she doubled-down on her opposition to changing the filibuster, just before Joe Biden arrived to meet with Democrats. After she did that, the civil rights leaders were characterized as “pissed”. “The timing of her speech … showed an insensitivity, at best, and contempt, at worst, of our efforts and the efforts of the president,” Sharpton told Politico Playbook. Sinema’s office released a statement.
In a statement to Playbook, a spokesperson for Sinema’s office said that “Senator Sinema is grateful for the chance to hear from these leaders — and as she said in her remarks [Thursday], she believes that different people of good faith can have honest disagreements about policy and strategy, and that honest disagreements are normal and do not reflect a lack of dialogue.”
Seriously, what did they think would happen? Tone-deaf Democrats just don’t get it. All they are doing now is just giving her the opportunity to dig deeper into her position against changing the filibuster. I’m good with that, to be honest. Thank goodness there are at least a couple of Democrats willing to stand up to such destructive legislation. I still think there are a few other Democrats who oppose changing the filibuster, when push comes to shove, and they are letting Manchin and Sinema take the hits. It’s cowardly but likely true.
Saturday in Arizona, Martin Luther King III told a crowd that Sinema can’t have it both ways – she can’t support the bills but not support changing the filibuster to get them pushed through on a party line vote. He used standard Democrat talking points and hyperbole. He lied about voting rights for his daughter. She’s thirteen.
“History will remember Sen. Sinema, I believe unkindly, for her position on the filibuster,” the civil rights leader’s eldest son said as the nation prepares to mark the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
With his wife Arndrea Waters King; and their daughter Yolanda Renee King, 13, the family joined a march in Phoenix with local activists and supporters from Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, a predominantly Black church, and spoke about the importance of “no celebration without legislation.”
“Our daughter has less rights around voting than she had when she was born,” King said in an interview. “I can’t imagine what my mother and father would say about that. I’m sure they’re turning over and over in their graves about this.”
Clergy members were beating up on Sinema, too, during the rally in the park. And, King encouraged supporters to continue their work, though passage of the legislation missed its mark by passing by MLK Day, which is Monday.
Sinema was jeered by some of the hundreds of people attending Saturday’s rally after the Rev. Warren Stewart, a prominent Black clergy member and activist, said she was among “those … who would hide behind procedure.”
Supporters had hoped legislation would advance by Monday’s MLK holiday. Still encouraged, King urged people to take action like sign petitions or call their senators. The holiday is “not a traditional celebration where you kick back, eat barbeque and just relax,” he said. “This is about working.”
Somehow I don’t think that more petitions and phone calls will change Sinema’s mind on the filibuster. The Democrats are short-sighted and Sinema is a realist on this subject. She likely takes Mitch McConnell seriously when he lists legislation that Republicans could demand votes on if the filibuster is changed. She should, as all Democrats should.