As Americans struggle with Covid-19’s economic fallout and financial hardships, what is it in the budget reconciliation bill that Senator Sinema – who once vowed to stand up for “us, the powerless” – opposes so much?
“Senator.” That was Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Ariz) response to a progressive activist who asked her in a video posted on Twitter: “Congresswoman? … Who are you gonna leave out for the Build Back Better Biden agenda?”
Ignoring the fact that the Senate is the upper chamber of the US Congress, and as such “congresswoman” is a perfectly acceptable way to address a senator, it is quite telling that this cocky response was the only one Sinema had to the activist’s legitimate points.
Most people probably know by now that Sinema was a hot topic in the news for her refusal to debate or offer anything in the form of concessions in the current standoff in Congress over President Biden’s Build Back Better plan (BBB) of $350 billion per year over 10 years. Sinema has so far refused to counteroffer, or even discuss the matter substantially at all before the public, noting that she simply doesn’t support the price tag of these reforms. Even if the Democratic leadership does know what she wants, or what numbers she objects to, shouldn’t her bosses – the public – also know?
Let’s just say that what she wanted 10 or 15 years ago certainly looks different to what she wants now.
In her 2012 campaign ad, she said “I will bring people together and work with both parties without sacrificing my progressive values,” as the word “principled” flashed across the screen.
Unfortunately, only a third of that statement has held true; she has indeed worked with both parties to continue the neoliberal onslaught against American workers, as well as to continue the domination of the military industrial complex through endless war.
It wasn’t always like this, however. Sinema cut her political teeth by aiding the Ralph Nader presidential campaign in 2000 when she was a member of the Green Party. She went on to defend the late radical defense attorney Lynne Stewart, who was facing what many believed to be kangaroo charges connected to her defense of controversial defendants.
She also ran for local Arizona offices as an independent who criticized capitalism and protested the disastrous and illegal Iraq war. In 2003, she protested Joe Lieberman’s presidential bid, calling him a “shame to Democrats.” At the time, she said: “I don’t even know why he’s running. He seems to want to get Republicans voting for him. What kind of strategy is that?”
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No doubt Sinema held these views in no small part because of her upbringing, which saw her living for years in an abandoned gas station as a child. She had principles, worked hard to fight for the downtrodden as both a lawyer and a social worker, and even brought these beliefs to her seat in the Arizona House of Representatives. She ran as a Democrat this time and won, and as long as she fought for the working people of this country, I would keep my criticisms to the sides.
For instance, Charles Barron is a former Black Panther who serves in the New York State Assembly and has done so without sacrificing his principles as a panther, a socialist, and an opponent of the rot present in the Democratic Party. If he can do what he does, there is no reason why Sinema couldn’t do the same, which in the AZ House she largely did until the end of her tenure.
After the 2008 financial crash caused by greed and unbridled capitalism, Sinema seemed to make a pivot toward the dark side. She started drifting more and more to the right. She went along with GOP-supported budget cuts, while at the same time asking for no sacrifices from the wealthy in the form of tax increases. She then backpedaled on this stance, perhaps seeing how unpopular it was to balance the budget on the backs of everyone but the oligarchs, but this newfound allegiance to neoliberalism and capitalist fundamentalism was a sign of things to come.
“Congress does nothing or, worse, bails out Wall Street and the powerful while we suffer… I will stand up to the powerful in Washington… Someone needs to stand up for us, the forgotten middle class and the powerless in our society,” Sinema said in yet another 2012 campaign ad.
However, the person that her constituents voted for was not the one that showed up to Congress. After making it to the US House in 2012, she joined the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democrats who don’t even try to hide their allegiance to neoliberal anti-worker ideology.
As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Sinema voted to move a rollback in Dodd-Frank financial regulations forward, despite the fact that it was literally written by the powerful oligarchs Sinema vowed to stand up to.
Timidly progressive Americans for Financial Reform said in 2017 that Sinema had voted in favor of twelve out of nineteen bills that they say “served the interests or wishes of Wall Street and the financial industry at the expense of the public interest.” If this center-left organization thinks Sinema is doing the bidding of Wall Street, it is not hard to imagine what I, a socialist, think of her tenure in the house.
Sinema also has received the official endorsement of the US Chamber of Commerce, which is literally a lobbying outlet representing big business and the oligarchs of America. Any politician receiving the endorsement of the country’s largest lobbying group has the pleasure of having received the economic equivalent of a Dick Cheney or Ann Coulter foreign policy endorsement. Shameful!
If Sinema was just genuinely somebody who had a political change of heart, or even was a lifelong opponent of any or all of the policies I support, I would respect that – that’s life. But her thirst for power and political ambition, coupled with the millions she has received from economic elite lobbying groups as well as her political ascension in the same time span, is all too much to be considered coincidental.
As millions of Americans continue to struggle with higher costs of education, healthcare, fuel, housing, childcare, textbooks, transportation, and so much more, as well as a poverty economy with low wages and long hours coupled with a global pandemic, they are scratching their heads and wondering what is in the budget reconciliation bill that Sinema opposes so much? Is it the price tag of 350 billion dollars per year for ten years, even though this spending is offset by tax increases on those with capital and incomes over 400,000 dollars per year?
Not likely; Sinema voted in December 2020 for a 740-billion-dollar ‘defense’ bill and has actually never seen a bloated military budget which she opposed. If it isn’t the reasonably low cost of the bill, which is not radical enough or far-reaching enough as is, what is her problem?
Could it be that her oligarchic masters and donors simply cannot stomach that the wealthy elite will have to pay more in taxes so the US can finally rocket into the 20th century with bare-bones policies like expanded healthcare, free community college, and free childcare? This seems closer to the truth.
This reconciliation bill is already a huge compromise on the part of Americans who have faced a capitalist and neoliberal onslaught for their whole lives. This bill is small, not enough, and the policies within are usually called things like “human rights” in other countries. But even this is too much for the senator who once called herself a “Prada socialist” – whatever that means…
This article was originally published on RT.com.