The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Emily’s List says it will no longer endorse Sen. Sinema as she holds firm on filibuster

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), right, departs after a vote on Capitol Hill on Nov. 4, 2021. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Emily’s List, the national group that backs female Democrats who support abortion rights, said Tuesday that it will no longer endorse Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) because she opposes changing Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation.

In a Senate floor speech last week, Sinema said she would not support changing the chamber’s rules allowing a minority of senators to block legislation. The speech from Sinema, as well as a statement from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), appeared to deliver a fatal blow to efforts by the White House and fellow Democrats to push through voting rights legislation that Republicans overwhelmingly oppose.

Later Tuesday, the abortion-rights group NARAL said that it, too, will not endorse any senator who opposes changing the Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation. The group did not mention Sinema or Manchin by name.

The battle over voting rights has escalated over the past year as Republican-led state legislatures — many inspired by former president Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen — have sought to restrict voting by mail, early voting, ballot drop boxes and other provisions that have made voting more convenient.

Describing the country as being “at an inflection point in the fight for voting rights and reproductive freedom,” Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler said in a statement Tuesday that the group’s mission “is not possible without free and fair elections.”

“So, we want to make it clear: if Sen. Sinema can not support a path forward for the passage of this legislation, we believe she undermines the foundations of our democracy, her own path to victory and also the mission of EMILY’s List, and we will be unable to endorse her moving forward,” Butler said.

The group said that, together with others, it has lobbied Sinema to back Democratic efforts to pass the voting rights legislation but that “so far those concerns have not been addressed.”

“We have not endorsed or contributed to Sen. Sinema since her election in 2018,” Butler said. “Right now, Sen. Sinema’s decision to reject the voices of allies, partners and constituents who believe the importance of voting rights outweighs that of an arcane process means she will find herself standing alone in the next election.”

NARAL said Tuesday that it is changing its endorsement criteria because “our democracy is on the line.”

“The freedom to vote is a fundamental freedom—inextricably linked to reproductive freedom,” the group said in a tweet. “NARAL’s commitment to voting rights is unwavering. We won’t endorse any senators who don’t support changing the Senate rules to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.”

Sinema defended her position in a statement Tuesday night.

“While the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation has been used repeatedly to protect against wild swings in federal policy, including in the area of protecting women’s health care, I said on the Senate floor last week that different people of good faith can have honest disagreements about policy and strategy,” she said. “Such honest disagreements are normal, and I respect those who have reached different conclusions on how to achieve our shared goals of addressing voter suppression and election subversion, and making the Senate work better for everyday Americans.”

In her floor speech last week, the senator reiterated her long-standing position defending the filibuster, the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule.

“While I continue to support these [voting] bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country,” Sinema said, adding that lawmakers “must address the disease itself . . . to protect our democracy.”

“The response requires something greater and, yes, more difficult than what the Senate is discussing today,” she said.

Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.