Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) refused to answer several questions during a CNN interview with congressional correspondent Lauren Fox on Thursday.
FOX: You have met directly with the president perhaps more than any other senator in the Democratic Party, maybe aside from Joe Manchin. What lessons have you learned? What kind of negotiator is the president? And is it hard for you to tell the president, “No, I can’t do that”?
SINEMA: President Biden served in the Senate for a long time so he knows how negotiations work. And he also during this process called me repeatedly and asked me to continue working with Senator Rob Portman and others in the G10 to find this bipartisan agreement and showed a real commitment to wanting this bipartisan achievement, which we’ve — which we’ve accomplished. And I think the big challenge in front of us is for us to all work together in an accountable and transparent way to actually implement this law.
FOX: Schumer has said he wants to vote on Build Back Better, that broader social safety net bill, before Christmas break. Are you prepared to vote yes when that comes to the floor?
SINEMA: Well, I don’t set the schedule for the Senate floor and I’m always prepared to vote and to vote for what’s right for the interests of Arizona. I personally believe that the best way to create legislation is to be thoughtful and careful so that we’re crafting legislation that truly represents the interests that we want to achieve and that creates a benefit and helps people all across Arizona and the country. So, that’s what I’m working on right now.
FOX: It doesn’t sound like you are quite a yes yet on the version that just passed the House of Representatives. What changes do you want to make?
SINEMA: Well, folks know I don’t negotiate in the press. I’m not going to do that with you.
FOX: I know one of the things that you made clear very early in the negotiation with the president and your majority leader was that you were not going to support raising the corporate tax rate up a single point. Did you feel like at any point they weren’t taking your comments seriously given the fact that they were promising for a long time that this was going to be part of the bill?
SINEMA: You know, I don’t really spend much time thinking about what other people are saying publicly. What I really want to focus on is how to get to a solution and solve a problem that matters to every day folks in Arizona. And people back home in Arizona know that I am committed to ensuring that any legislation we pass retains America’s competitiveness. So I won’t support any legislation that increases burdens on Arizonan or American businesses and decreases our ability to compete either domestically or globally. So, I want to be sure that if we are crafting legislation, we’re doing it in a lean and efficient way that’s fiscally responsible and doesn’t impact things like inflation or make our businesses less competitive.
FOX: So you’ve been criticized from progressives who say you’re standing in the way of what we’ve been campaigning on for years, whether that’s repealing the 2017 tax cuts, whether that is changing voting rights laws. What do you say to progressives back home who are disappointed in the job that you’re doing here?
SINEMA: Well, I’m serving the exact way that I’ve campaigned on over the last near decade that I’ve served in Washington, D.C. And when I ran for the United States Senate in 2018, I told the folks of Arizona what I would do. That I would come to the Senate, try to find bipartisan solutions, be an independent voice for Arizona, and always put every day people in Arizona first. I would say that’s exactly what I’m doing.
FOX: One of the ways you negotiate in talking with your colleagues is that you’re pretty forthcoming on where you stand on something. We talked about the corporate tax rate. Why do you think it is that your leadership sometimes overpromises? Do you think that that’s a problem for voters and for the Democratic Party?
SINEMA: I can only speak for myself, but what I can say is this: I would never promise something to the American people that I can’t deliver. And I think it’s not responsible for elected leaders to do that. The concern I have is that, first, it’s not very honest. So you should just be honest. That’s something my parents taught me when I was very young and it stuck.
FOX: Some of your colleagues, some of them progressives, think that you’re kind of an enigma. That they’re not sure where you stand on any one issue while you’re in the middle of a negotiation. Do you think that that’s a fair criticism of you?
SINEMA: I think I’m very direct and I’m very upfront when I talk to folks about what I believe in, what I can support and what I can’t support. So I think there are some people who just don’t like what they’re hearing and maybe they use other terms to describe it. But folks in Arizona know that I’ve always been a straight shooter and always will be.
FOX: Would you be willing to vote with Democrats to hold up the president’s mandates?
SINEMA: Well, I’m not going to tell you those things. What I will do, though, is make sure that I’m voting in the interest of Arizonans. Now, folks back in Arizona know that I’m a strong supporter of this vaccine. I encourage all Arizonans to also get vaccinated so that we can return to the lives that we love, and be able to share those important moments of both joy and sorrow with our family members.