Sinema advisers resign, calling her an obstacle to progress

Five members of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Ariz.) Veterans Advisory Council resigned this week over her opposition to multiple aspects of Democrats’ sweeping social spending bill.

In a letter released Thursday, the veterans hammered Sinema over her refusal to fully support President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda as well as her opposition to abolishing the filibuster, the 60-vote threshold for most legislation in the Senate that has consistently thwarted Democrats’ legislative priorities.

“You have become one of the principal obstacles to progress, answering to big donors rather than your own people. We shouldn’t have to buy representation from you, and your failure to stand by your people and see their urgent needs is alarming,” the five wrote in the letter, which was released by Common Defense.

They specifically cited various Democratic priorities that could be passed in the social spending bill, including curtailing rising drug prices, boosting employment and expanding health care. They also cite Democratic efforts to pass voting reforms in the face of GOP voter restrictions enacted in several states — an effort that has hit a brick wall in the Senate due to the filibuster. 

“As members of your Veterans Advisory Council for years, we’re deeply concerned by your failure to acknowledge us or seek our input. Today, we feel as though we are merely given performative titles and used as window dressing for your own image—not as resources to provide counsel on what’s best for veterans,” the group said. “Given your complete disregard for our input and your unwillingness to act on behalf of your constituents’ needs, we respectfully resign from your Veterans Advisory Council.”

Sinema faces a growing wave of rebuke from Democrats in Arizona and other erstwhile allies over opposition to the social spending package, which is being whittled down from $3.5 trillion to likely around $2 trillion. Criticism against her was revived again this week after it was revealed that she opposes hiking taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations to pay for the package despite the tactic being popular with Democrats.

Sinema’s opposition has been thrust into the spotlight in a 50-50 Senate, where any one Democrat can sink the package, which is being passed via budget reconciliation to avoid the filibuster.

Already, groups are forming in Arizona to recruit a primary challenger for when she’s up for reelection in 2024, with progressives eyeing Rep. Ruben Gallego to run against her in a state that has become an increasingly competitive battleground since Sinema’s election in 2018. 

The letter released by Common Defense complements the group’s seven-figure ad buy to push Sinema to fall in line with Democrats’ reconciliation package. 

The letter by the five veterans was first reported by The New York Times.

In response to the letter, Sinema’s office said that she and her team have had multiple policy discussions with the Veterans Advisory Council on a slew of issues, and Sinema said in a statement that she valued the five former members’ views.

“We appreciate their diverse views, contributions to legislation, and participation in veteran outreach events,” she said. “While it is unfortunate that apparent disagreement on separate policy issues has led to this decision, I thank them for their service and will continue working every day to deliver for Arizona’s veterans who have sacrificed so much to keep us safe and secure.”

Tags advisory boards Arizona Build Back Better Democratic Party Filibuster in the United States Senate Joe Biden Kyrsten Sinema Reconciliation Ruben Gallego

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