Kyrsten Sinema’s controversies: why progressives won’t be sad to see the bisexual senator leave

Arizona senator Krysten Sinema colourful drink ring Instagram/@kyrstensinema

Bisexual senator Kyrsten Sinema has officially bowed out of running for re-election this year, following a rollercoaster time in office that has been dogged with controversies.

The 47-year-old Arizona politician, who is an independent in the US Senate, won as a Democrat in 2018.

Her win marked the first non-Republican to represent Arizona in the upper chamber since 1994.

However, on on Tuesday (5 March) Kyrsten Sinema posted an announcement explaining she will not campaign for re-election, stating that: “I believe in my approach, but it’s not what America wants right now.”

“I love Arizona and I am so proud of what we’ve delivered,” she continued.

“Because I choose civility, understanding, listening, working together to get stuff done, I will leave the Senate at the end of this year.”

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Kyrsten Sinema had a rather tumultuous time in the Senate. She jumped from the Green party, to the Democratic left, to sitting as a centrist independent (December 2022) in a journey that angered progressives. 

Though she was the first openly bisexual member of the Senate and trolled Mike Pence, she also infuriated many left-wing Americans with her ever-growing list of controversies:


Opposing the raise of minimum wage

Krysten Sinema in the Senate.
During her time in the Sentate, Krysten Sinema has been the topic of many controversies. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Kyrsten Sinema repeatedly stood against popular Democratic legislation; one of the most egregious examples was her vote against the minimum wage increase. 

In March 2021, Sinema held up a thumbs down for an amendment to add a minimum wage increase to President Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill.

Her gesture seemed to imitate the late Republican Senator John McCain, who famously held up a thumbs-down gesture to reject a Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).


Medicare prescription drug pricing reforms 

In September 2021, Sinema adopted a deeply unpopular position surrounding prescription drug pricing.

During negotiations over the Biden administration’s domestic policy agenda, Sinema opposed allowing the government to negotiate Medicare prescription drug costs. 

She also refused to support the House Democratic centrists alternative bill that would limit the drugs that would be subject to Medicare negotiation.

It’s worth noting at this point that Sinema is one of the largest beneficiaries of pharmaceutical political action committee money in Congress.


Wealthy tax increase 

Another deeply controversial stance Kyrsten Sinema took was that she was seemingly against tax increases on the wealthy.

Within the Inflation Reduction Act, Sinema managed to change the initial deal and scrubbed the carried interest tax loophole. This decision meant the proposed tax overhauls for the wealthy were removed.

Once again, this was Sinema blocking bipartisan consensus, frustrating her political colleagues.


A bad boss?

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (L) talks with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) before Israeli President Isaac Herzog addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress at the U.S. Captiol on July 19, 2023 in Washington, DC. Herzog's speech on the floor of the House of Representatives stirred controversy as some liberal Democrats planned to boycott, underscoring tensions between the two countries. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (L) talks with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) before Israeli President Isaac Herzog addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress at the U.S. Captiol on July 19, 2023 in Washington, DC. Herzog’s speech on the floor of the House of Representatives stirred controversy as some liberal Democrats planned to boycott. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

OK, so this is probably less wide-reaching than her other controversies, but may speak to her character.

Kyrsten Sinema allegedly provided her staff with a 37-page guide outlining her expectations of them, according to a Daily Beast article.

Demands reportedly included getting her groceries, fixing her internet, and learning her preferences for airline seats. 

She reportedly spent around $210,000 (around £165,000) of her taxpayer-funded budget on private air travel.


Weakening the filibuster

Kyrsten Sinema in a white brick hallway, turning towards the camera with a white bag over her far shoulder. She's wearing glasses and a black sleeveless top.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) walks to a vote at the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Getty)

Another notable move that angered progressives was Kyrsten Sinema’s choice to block an attempt to alter the Senate’s filibuster rule.

Filibuster tactics involve purposefully “running out” time on a legislative debate to prevent it from passing: often with long, blustering, rambling speeches. As a legislative tool, it blocks and holds up legislation in the Senate, so there was a real push to change filibuster rules so much-needed legislation could pass.

The Senate rule requires 60-vote supermajorities (an extremely hard feat in the divided chamber) and this could have been altered so that essential legislation could pass the Senate with 50 votes. 

The proposed rule change was voted down by a painfully slim 52-48 margin.

This alteration of the filibuster, theoretically, could have helped protect voting rights, pro-LGBTQ+ rights, and pro-reproductive rights.

Reform of the filibuster was desperately needed for Democrats. However, Sinema shot down the notion and prevented the passage of the voting rights bill.

Sinema was then slammed for her shallow tribute to victims of a Texas school shooting, branded hypocritical as she’d blocked the filibuster which could have meant gun safety measures were passed.


Arizona Democratic Party

US Senator Kyrsten Sinema, then-Democrat of Arizona, speaks during a Senate Finance Committee hearing (Getty)

As a result of blocking the filibuster reform, the Arizona Democratic Party formally censured Sinema.

The decision was reached, according to Arizona Democratic Party Chair Raquel Terán, as Sinema had failed “to do whatever it takes to ensure the health of our democracy.”

Sinema had significant power in the divided Senate and real induce over the Biden administration’s policies and yet she repeatedly failed to 

As Elie Mystal referred to Sinema, she’s the type of white person that “Martin Luther King Jr warned us about.”

Repeatedly and unashamedly, Sinema has pledged to shoot down Democratic plans and sided with Republicans on legislation voting. It’s no surprise that progressives – including many LGBTQ+ people – won’t be too sad to wave goodbye to this divisive figure.

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