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Opinion Kyrsten Sinema has all the power right now. She should use it.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) at the U.S. Capitol on July 28. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) made sure his priorities were taken care of in the deal he cut to revive the Democrats’ reconciliation bill. His fellow moderate and party maverick, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, should also take care of her state’s needs before she gives her assent. Those needs are simple: border control and battery research funding.

Sinema is in a precarious political position. Arizona is a purple state, having backed Joe Biden by a slim 10,000-vote margin in 2020. That means she must be seen as someone who’s not just a lockstep partisan. That explains, from a cynical perspective, her unwillingness to amend the filibuster and her opposition to President Biden’s massive Build Back Better proposal.

Sinema will need to apply the same realistic analysis to her position on the new reconciliation deal. Yes, she needs to regain support among Arizona Democrats if she intends to seek her party’s nomination again. But that support cannot come at the cost of her well-earned reputation for independence. It makes no sense for her to become a Democratic darling if doing so drives away the moderate independents who elected her to begin with.

That means pushing for Arizona interests as a condition for support is crucial to her future. Getting to yes for both Democratic and independent interests helps her build the coalition she needs for her 2024 reelection.

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Controlling Arizona’s border with Mexico is far and away the most important need for her state. It’s so important that Biden is already helping her fellow Democrat, Sen. Mark Kelly, in his reelection bid by completing gaps in President Donald Trump’s border wall in that state. Sinema should use her pivotal position to push for even more.

She can take two paths to crack down on illegal immigration. The first is to obtain more funding for things that can reduce that flow, such as more Border Patrol agents and equipment. She could also work to fund large detention centers that would permanently house migrants whose asylum requests have not been heard rather than release them into the community. Alternatively, she could push to fund monitoring devices for those people to eliminate the risk that they won’t show up when it’s time for judges to hear their case. Requests such as these would seriously address a major concern for Arizonans and insulate her against inevitable Republican attacks.

She should also push for even more funding for battery research. Progressives want a rapid shift from fossil fuels to clean energy sources such as solar and wind power, but that cannot happen to scale until battery technology evolves. These renewables do not produce electricity 24 hours a day because neither solar nor wind activity is constant. They can become the backbone of the nation’s electricity generation only when their excess energy can be stored in large quantities through new batteries.

This is a potential bonanza for Arizona because it is largely a desert. The sun shines almost constantly, making cities in the state such as Phoenix and Tucson the sunniest cities in America. Yuma, Ariz., gets so much sunlight that it has been classified the sunniest city in the world. Arizona could be the Saudi Arabia of solar power if batteries could capture that energy. Sinema should make this a top priority and even be willing to cut some of the other provisions in the bill to accomplish it.

Doing these things would address Arizona’s major needs while burnishing Sinema’s political standing. She should draw her line in the sand and condition her support on being satisfied on these twin concerns.

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