Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wholeheartedly agreed on Sunday with the Arizona Democratic Party’s decision to censure centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema after the Arizona lawmaker voted against weakening the filibuster in order to pass voting rights legislation.
Sinema, along with fellow moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), were the only two Democrats to join all 50 Republican senators in upholding the filibuster last week. With Sinema’s vote preventing an expansive law that would have protected voting rights from passing, the executive board of her home state’s Democratic Party took action against her.
“[O]n the matter of the filibuster and the urgency to protect voting rights, we have been crystal clear... and the ramifications of failing to pass federal legislation that protects their right to vote are too large and far-reaching,” Arizona party chair Raquel Terán wrote in a statement announcing Sinema’s censure.
Making the rounds of the Sunday news talk shows, Sanders lamented that Manchin and Sinema were joining the Republican “obstructionism” of the Biden administration’s agenda while touting the popularity of President Joe Biden’s spending and social proposals.
“All of those pieces of legislation are enormously popular, the bill itself in its entirety, and the president deserves credit for looking at the real problems facing this country,” the progressive independent declared on NBC’s Meet the Press. “But what we had is obstructionism from 50 Republicans, two Democrats.”
Sanders added: “What we have got to do now is take the issues to the American people. And if the Republicans want to vote against lowering the cost of prescription drugs, they want to continue to give tax breaks to the rich, let them vote that way. Let the American people see what's happening.”
Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, meanwhile, wondered if it’s healthy for the Democratic Party to “highlight the division in the party,” specifically citing the recent censure of Sinema.
“Do you think that was an appropriate action?” Todd pressed Sanders.
“Yeah, I do. I think that’s exactly right,” the self-described democratic socialist shot back. “Look, on that issue of voting rights, this is something that’s almost different than anything else.”The Vermont senator further noted that the GOP is currently “perpetuating this ‘Big Lie’ that” former President Donald Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election, warning that Republicans are “moving very aggressively into voter suppression” in states across the nation.
“Some of these states are doing away with the powers of independent election officials,” he continued. “They are moving in a very, very anti-democratic way. And it was absolutely imperative that we change the rules so that we could pass strong voting rights legislation.”
Calling the failure to change the filibuster rules “a terrible, terrible vote,” Sanders reiterated his belief that “what the Arizona Democratic Party did was exactly right.”
Additionally, when asked by Todd whether Biden could count on his vote in the Senate regarding “any compromise” that was reached with Manchin on spending legislation, Sanders flatly said no.
“Absolutely not,” he exclaimed. “You’re going to have to look at what that so-called compromise is. If it’s strong, if it protects the needs of working people, if it deals with climate, I’m there. But we have to look at the details of any proposal.”
In a separate interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning, meanwhile, the leftist senator also made it clear that he would be open to campaigning against Manchin and Sinema in their home states in upcoming elections.
“They’re not up until 2024,” he told anchor Dana Bash. “But if there were strong candidates in those states who were prepared to stand up for working families, who understand the Democratic Party has got to be the party of working people, taking on big money interests, if those candidates were there in Arizona and West Virginia, yes, I would be happy to support them.”