"Shocked but not surprised" was the reaction to Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema jumping the shark Thursday, effectively killing federal voting rights legislation by announcing in a pseudo-moralizing twenty-minute speech that she wouldn't support any change to the filibuster.
While the John Lewis Voting Rights Act The New York Times reported that Senate Republicans and centrist Democrats are working on narrower legislation that would overhaul the Electoral Count Act, the 19th-century law that former President Donald J. Trump sought to exploit to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The measures they are considering include barring the removal of nonpartisan election officials without cause and creating federal penalties for the harassment or intimidation of election officials.
Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Harvard-educated Marine Corps veteran who has been an articulate spokesman on the events of Jan. 6, was reluctant to criticize Sen. Sinema until Thursday. He now appears to be gearing up to challenge her for her Senate seat.
Sinema isn't up for re-election until 2025.
Saturday is Martin Luther King's Birthday
And Guess Who's Coming to Phoenix?
THE RECAST: Well, let's talk about the two Democratic senators from Arizona: Kyrsten Sinema who certainly gets a lot of headlines because of her position on not wanting to change the filibuster rule. But also, Sen. Mark Kelly who said this week he’s undecided on whether he's going to back the filibuster rules change.
What do you make of Arizona having this sort of outsize power with the president's future agenda plans?
REP. GALLEGO: I think having Sen. Kelly at least having conversations about this is very important. And he has given some indication that, given the choice between getting this done or [not] letting voting rights pass, then he would probably side with, obviously, getting voting rights passed.
I think it's more deeply disappointing that Sen. Sinema closed the option to having a discussion, even prior to the president coming down to the Senate to speak to them.
THE RECAST: Former President Trump is coming to Arizona, right outside your district. A bunch of the people he's invited to speak are folks that fanned his false election claims that the election was rigged.
Why do you think some Arizona residents and elected officials are receptive to that kind of message? How can Democrats play in that kind of environment?
REP. GALLEGO: The way that we play [is] as if we have fair voting laws. We win ideas and we defeat these people at the ballot box.
When it comes to the political environment — I wouldn't say it's a blue state, but it's certainly a moderate state. And it's trending that way. And the type of candidates that the Republicans are picking do not help them win the future. So they have to rig the future.
And for someone like Trump, who's kind of an egotistical person, he takes it personally that he is the first Republican to lose this [state] in quite a while. So I think that's what this is all about.
THE RECAST: On the flip side of that rally, there's also going to be demonstrations by liberal activists calling for a change to the filibuster rule. It’s going to be this strange juxtaposition in the Phoenix area on Saturday.
REP. GALLEGO: Well, you East Coast people … Florence [the site of the Trump rally] is about 80 miles away ... so hopefully we’re not going to see them (chuckles).
But more to the point about who's going to be there, I would rather find myself at a rally with the family of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the leaders of the Arizona civil rights movement, than be in the company of the former president and his anti-Democratic allies.
I think that's a great juxtaposition.
Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, a first-generation American and the first member of his family to attend college, majored in international relations at Harvard. Before his election to the U.S. Congress, he served in the Arizona State legislature. He founded the group Citizens for Professional Law Enforcement with the goal of recalling Sheriff Joe Arpaio, citing Arpaio's immigration policies and his use of taxpayer money to investigate Barack Obama's citizenship.
Joe Manchin fell off the radar after Sinema's attention-grabbing announcement. Perhaps he wasn't unhappy to dodge the incoming. But his surrogate appeared on CNN with former Bernie Sanders campaign chair Nina Turner, where he displayed a truly impressive command of mansplaining argot, all but telling her that she was too emotional (loud!) and that she didn't understand the way things are done in Washington.
Joe Manchin certainly does. CNBC, hardly a bastion of left-wing hysteria, reported that the right-wing billionaire Charles Koch's political advocacy group had been pressuring Manchin to oppose filibuster reform and voting rights legislation.
What Does Kyrsten Want?