Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, represents Arizona in the U.S. Senate.
Arizonans expect me to do what I promised when I ran for the House and the Senate: to be independent — like Arizona — and to work with anyone to achieve lasting results.
Lasting results — rather than temporary victories, destined to be reversed, undermining the certainty that America’s families and employers depend on.
The best way to achieve durable, lasting results? Bipartisan cooperation.
I understand bipartisanship seems outdated to many pundits. But the difficult work of collaboration is what we expect in Arizona. And I still believe it is the best way to identify realistic solutions — instead of escalating all-or-nothing political battles that result in no action, or in whipsawing federal policy reversals.
Since I was elected to Congress, a bipartisan approach has produced laws curbing suicide among our troops and veterans, boosting American manufacturing, delivering for Native American communities, combating hate crimes, and protecting public lands.
It’s no secret that I oppose eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. I held the same view during three terms in the U.S. House, and said the same after I was elected to the Senate in 2018. If anyone expected me to reverse my position because my party now controls the Senate, they should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or majority.
Once in a majority, it is tempting to believe you will stay in the majority. But a Democratic Senate minority used the 60-vote threshold just last year to filibuster a police reform proposal and a covid-relief bill that many Democrats viewed as inadequate. Those filibusters were mounted not as attempts to block progress, but to force continued negotiations toward better solutions.
And, sometimes, the filibuster, as it’s been used in previous Congresses, is needed to protect against attacks on women’s health, clean air and water, or aid to children and families in need.
My support for retaining the 60-vote threshold is not based on the importance of any particular policy. It is based on what is best for our democracy. The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles.
To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass the For the People Act (voting-rights legislation I support and have co-sponsored), I would ask: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to see that legislation rescinded a few years from now and replaced by a nationwide voter-ID law or restrictions on voting by mail in federal elections, over the objections of the minority?
To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to expand health-care access or retirement benefits: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to later see that legislation replaced by legislation dividing Medicaid into block grants, slashing earned Social Security and Medicare benefits, or defunding women’s reproductive health services?
To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to empower federal agencies to better protect the environment or strengthen education: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to see federal agencies and programs shrunk, starved of resources, or abolished a few years from now?
This question is less about the immediate results from any of these Democratic or Republican goals — it is the likelihood of repeated radical reversals in federal policy, cementing uncertainty, deepening divisions and further eroding Americans’ confidence in our government.
And to those who fear that Senate rules will change anyway as soon as the Senate majority changes: I will not support an action that damages our democracy because someone else did so previously or might do so in the future. I do not accept a new standard by which important legislation can only pass on party-line votes — and when my party is again in the Senate minority, I will work just as hard to preserve the right to shape legislation.
Good-faith arguments have been made both criticizing and defending the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. I share the belief expressed in 2017 by 31 Senate Democrats opposing elimination of the filibuster — a belief shared by President Biden. While I am confident that several senators in my party still share that belief, the Senate has not held a debate on the matter.
It is time for the Senate to debate the legislative filibuster, so senators and our constituents can hear and fully consider the concerns and consequences. Hopefully, senators can then focus on crafting policies through open legislative processes and amendments, finding compromises that earn broad support.
A group of 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans that I am helping lead has reached an agreement on an infrastructure investment framework. We are now negotiating with the administration. Bipartisan working groups to which I belong are negotiating how to address our broken immigration system and raise the federal minimum wage. I strongly support bipartisan discussions underway on police reform. The Senate recently passed a critical water infrastructure bill, as well as crucial research, development and manufacturing legislation.
It’s possible that not all of these efforts will succeed — and those that do may not go as far as some of us wish.
But bipartisan policies that stand the test of time could help heal our country’s divisions and strengthen Americans’ confidence that our government is working for all of us and is worthy of all of us.
Instability, partisanship and tribalism continue to infect our politics. The solution, however, is not to continue weakening our democracy’s guardrails. If we eliminate the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, we will lose much more than we gain.