U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is growing increasingly isolated from some of her party’s most influential officials and donors after playing a key role in scuttling voting rights legislation that many Democrats consider essential to preserving democracy.
Sinema faces a vote of disapproval and possible censure from leaders of the Arizona Democratic Party on Saturday, a symbolic condemnation for the woman who just three years ago brought the party an Arizona Senate seat for the first time in a generation.
Donors are threatening to walk away. Several groups are already collecting money for an eventual primary challenge, even though she’s not on the ballot until 2024. Young activists are holding a second hunger strike to draw attention to Sinema’s vote.
The moves offer a preview of the persistent opposition Sinema will likely face within her own party in the two years before she next appears on a ballot. The independent streak that has given her tremendous leverage over the agenda in Washington has enraged many Democrats back home who are intent on preventing her reelection.
“Any reservoir of goodwill that she had is gone,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who may challenge Sinema from the left.
Sinema’s defenders say nobody who’s watched her for the past decade should be surprised by her position. She often bucked her party in the House, ran an aggressively moderate campaign for Senate and has never wavered in her support for upholding the filibuster.
“During three terms in the U.S. House, and now in the Senate, Kyrsten has always promised Arizonans she would be an independent voice for the state — not for either political party,” Hannah Hurley, Sinema’s spokesperson, said in a statement. “She’s delivered for Arizonans and has always been honest about where she stands.”
Her influence is driven by the Senate’s 50-50 split, which essentially gives any senator the ability to kill legislation, an option Sinema has repeatedly exercised.
But she faces political dynamics unlike the other Senate moderate thwarting Democratic ambitions, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Representing a state that former President Donald Trump carried by nearly 39 percentage points in 2020, Manchin is unlikely to face a progressive challenger who would gain traction.
In Arizona, however, Democrats are ascendant. Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1996, and the party is eager to build on that success. That makes it harder for a Democrat to simply ignore the left here, particularly in a primary election.
Sinema supports the Democrats’ voting rights legislation but steadfastly opposes passing it by changing or eliminating the Senate’s filibuster rule, which effectively requires 60 of 100 votes to pass most legislation. On Wednesday night, she joined Manchin and all Republicans to oppose a one-time rule change so the bill could pass with a simple majority.
Laphonza Butler, president of Emily’s List, an important fundraising group for Democratic women who support abortion rights, said in a statement that Sinema’s vote “means she will find herself standing alone in the next election.” She said the group would not endorse her reelection if she doesn’t support a path forward for voting rights legislation.
Primary Sinema Project, which is raising money for an eventual primary challenge, said it’s collected more than $300,000 from nearly 12,000 donors.
“We are quite literally doing everything we physically, possibly can in terms of putting our bodies on the line and trying to plead for this action because the consequences (of inaction) are far worse than starving or going to jail or both,” said Shana Gallagher, one of about three dozen young people holding a hunger strike to protest Sinema and Manchin. Gallagher is co-founder of Un-PAC, launched last year to organize young people in favor of passing voting rights legislation.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent whose fundraising and mobilization abilities are virtually unmatched on the left, suggested he’d support primary challengers to Sinema and Manchin.
Sinema says the filibuster forces bipartisanship on Capitol Hill and ensures that the millions of Americans represented by the minority party have a voice. Repealing it would lead to wild swings in legislation depending on the party in power, she says.
“When one party need only negotiate with itself, policy will inextricably be pushed from the middle towards the extremes,” she said in a floor speech last week, her most expansive explanation of her views on the issue.
Antagonizing the left shores up her standing among the independent women who decide close races in Arizona, said Brian Murray, a GOP consultant in Phoenix and former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party. Sinema has shown the “maverick” sensibilities that made the late GOP Sen. John McCain a favorite son in Arizona, and with her appeal to independents, “she’s going to be nearly impossible to beat,” he said.
“Bernie Sanders is attacking an Arizona senator?” Murray said. “I’d say: ‘Hey, thank you. You’re helping me get reelected.’”
Even Republican Gov. Doug Ducey gave Sinema “credit for standing up and protecting a Senate rule that she believes in.”
“I’m glad that she’s trying to bring people together,” Ducey told reporters. Sinema was one of Ducey’s fiercest critics in 2020, when she relentlessly lambasted his light-touch response to the pandemic.
Sinema’s fight with the left has overshadowed the 2022 reelection bid of Mark Kelly Arizona’s other Democratic senator, who will be trying to hold on to the seat he won in a special election.
With Sinema taking most of the attention, Kelly managed to avoid taking a position on the filibuster throughout his 2020 campaign and his first year in office. Hours before he had to vote Wednesday, Kelly came out in favor of a one-time workaround to pass the voting rights bill.
The Arizona Democratic Party meets Saturday, and leaders are poised to take the highly unusual step of formally condemning Sinema, which could take the form of a vote of no confidence or a censure. A larger group of leaders voted in September to put Sinema “on notice” that her votes on the filibuster and other Democratic priorities, including Biden’s big increase in social services spending, will be closely scrutinized.
The move has no practical consequences but demonstrates the frustration of key Democratic activists. Whether the party pulls its support for Sinema’s 2024 bid would be up to the leaders elected after the 2022 midterms.
“She has an incredible ability to work across the aisle,” Terán said. “Let’s see that ability put to work for voting rights.”
President Kais Dissolves Top Judicial Watchdog
Tunisia’s president dissolves top judicial watchdog
Tunisian President Kais Saied has dissolved a judicial council that deals with the independence of judges.
Saied – who had dismissed the government and suspended parliament last July – said on Sunday that the Supreme Judicial Council was a “thing of the past”.
sassinations of left-wing activists in 2013.
His decision raises fears about the independence of the judiciary and caps months of his sharp criticism of Tunisia’s judges.
Last month, he revoked all financial privileges for members of the top judicial council, which was formed in 2016 and tasked with ensuring the independence of the judiciary, disciplining judges and granting them professional promotions.
“In this council, positions and appointments are sold according to loyalties. Their place is not the place where they sit now, but where the accused stand,” Saied said in a speech in the interior ministry.
“You cannot imagine the money that certain judges have been able to receive, billions and billions,” he added.
The council’s dissolution comes on the ninth anniversary of the assassination of secular politician Chokri Belaid, with parties and organizations, including the powerful UGTT union, preparing to hold demonstrations later in the day to pressure the judiciary to hold those involved in terrorism accountable.
It is expected that Saied’s supporters also will protest in a second demonstration against the Supreme Judicial Council.
“I tell Tunisians to demonstrate freely. It is your right and our right to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council,” Saied said.
Saied’s approval of Sunday’s demonstrations comes even though a government decision to ban all demonstrations remains in effect.
Last month, police fired water cannons and beat protesters with sticks to break up an opposition protest against Saied, whose seizure of broad powers and declared plans to redraw the constitution have cast doubt on Tunisia’s decade-old democratic system and hindered its quest for an international rescue plan for public finances.
The president has initiated an online public consultation before drafting a new constitution that he says will be put to a referendum.
He has not brought major political or civil society players into the process.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Has Apologiseda To Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Australia PM Morrison’s deputy sorry for calling leader a ‘liar’
Morrison said in a statement on Saturday that he accepted Joyce’s apology.
In a leaked message, the deputy prime minister, who heads the junior partner in Morrison’s coalition government, said last year that he had never trusted Morrison.
“He is a hypocrite and a liar from my observations and that is over a long time,” Joyce wrote to a former staffer of Morrison’s Liberal Party who had alleged sexual assault by a fellow staffer.
Joyce’s remarks further shake the political position of Morrison, who must call a federal election by May. His approval ratings have fallen over his handling of an Omicron-driven coronavirus outbreak.
“I want to apologise to the prime minister … I should have never written the text that I did,” Joyce told a news conference.
“My view from the backbench about the prime minister was based on assumption and commentary, not from a one-on-one working relationship.”
Joyce became deputy prime minister in 2021 as the leader of the National Party, not as Morrison’s appointee. Joyce’s party, which has the power to remove him as its leader, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Morrison responded, “Relationships change over time. Politicians are human beings too. We all have our frailties and none of us are perfect.”
Joyce’s text message, first reported on Friday night by Nine Newspapers, was sent through a third party to former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins. She had alleged that she was sexually assaulted in Parliament House in March 2019.
The political commotion comes just days after a controversy about an alleged exchange between senior Liberal Party members making derogatory remarks about Morrison.
Opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was “untenable” for Joyce to continue as deputy prime minister.
“I couldn’t care less that the Liberal Party members all don’t like each other,” Albanese said at a briefing. “What I do care about is the consequences of a government that is dysfunctional.”
Trump ‘wrong’ to say 2020 election could be overturned
Trump ‘wrong’ to say 2020 election could be overturned
Former Vice President Mike Pence has directly rebutted Donald Trump’s false claims that he somehow could have overturned the results of the 2020 election in the United States, saying that the former president was simply “wrong”.
In a speech to a gathering of the conservative Federalist Society in Florida on Friday, Pence addressed Trump’s intensifying efforts this week to advance the false narrative that, as vice president, he had the unilateral power to prevent President Joe Biden from taking office.
“President Trump is wrong,” Pence said. “I had no right to overturn the election.”
Pence’s declaration marked his most forceful response yet to Trump, who has spent his post-presidency stoking the lie that the 2020 campaign was stolen from him. And it comes as Pence begins laying the groundwork for a potential run for president in 2024, which could put him in direct competition with his former boss, who is also teasing a comeback run.
The relationship between the two men took on a new dynamic this week as Trump escalated his attacks on Pence.
In a statement Tuesday, Trump said the committee investigating the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol should instead probe “why Mike Pence did not send back the votes for recertification or approval”. And on Sunday, he blasted Pence, falsely declaring that “he could have overturned the Election!”
Vice presidents play only a ceremonial role in the counting of Electoral College votes, and any attempt to interfere in the count would have represented an extraordinary violation of the law and an assault on the democratic process.
Pence, in his remarks on Friday to the group of lawyers in Lake Buena Vista, described January 6, 2021, as “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol” and framed his actions that day as in line with his duty as a constitutional conservative.
“The American people must know that we will always keep our oath to the Constitution, even when it would be politically expedient to do otherwise,” he told the group on Friday.
He noted that, under Article II Section One of the Constitution, “elections are conducted at the state level, not by the Congress” and that “the only role of Congress with respect to the Electoral College is to open and count votes submitted and certified by the states. No more, no less.”
He went on to call out those who have insisted that is not the case.
“Frankly there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” he added. “Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”
The audience applauded Pence’s line about beating the Democrats in the upcoming presidential election, but remained silent when Pence said earlier that “Trump is wrong”.
Pence was inside the Capitol on January 6, presiding over the joint session of Congress to certify the presidential election, when a mob of Trump’s supporters violently smashed inside, assaulting police officers and hunting down legislators.
Pence, who released a letter moments before the session got underway that made clear he had no authority to overturn the will of the voters, was rushed to safety as some rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence!”
The former vice president, in his remarks Friday, acknowledged the lingering anger among many in Trump’s base, even as he said it was time “to focus on the future”.
“The truth is, there’s more at stake than our party or political fortunes,” he said. “Men and women, if we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections — we’ll lose our country.”
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