Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that there will be $15/hour federal minimum wage hike in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill the House will pass in a few weeks. "We're very proud of that," she said at her weekly press briefing. "As I've said, 27 million people will get a raise, 70% of them women." Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Budget Chair Bernie Sanders have committed to getting it through the Senate. That is, unless Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema stops that from happening.
In a glowing Politico profile of the Arizona Democrat, posing as a news story, written by Burgess Everett, Sinema is grabbing her share of all the attention colleague Joe Manchin got over the last few weeks for being a contrarian. For Manchin, it was taking survival checks away from people in the bill. For Sinema, it's preventing them from having a survival wage. We're back in the realm of whether rules made up on the fly by the Senate years ago trump smart policy, in this case what can be included in a budget reconciliation bill, and she's on the side of dumb Senate tradition. "What's important is whether or not it's directly related to short-term Covid relief. And if it's not, then I am not going to support it in this legislation," Sinema told Politico. "The minimum wage provision is not appropriate for the reconciliation process. It is not a budget item. And it shouldn't be in there." Note that that has not been determined as of yet—it's hasn't even faced the Senate parliamentarian who makes that determination, which can be overruled by senators, and Sinema's made up her mind.
She's declaring "what's important" here and saying that it's not the people. It's not whether 27 million people—nearly 19 million women—get a living wage for themselves and their families. No, for her "what's important" is upholding the arcane Senate rule that would allow the minority Republicans to continue to keep people in poverty. Because Sinema is also opposed to getting rid of the filibuster. The only way the minimum wage is increased—for the first time in 12 years—is if Democrats do it themselves. There's no way 10 Republicans do something that will make President Joe Biden that popular.
But she apparently doesn't care. Maybe she's trying to assume the mantle of another Arizona senator, John McCain, as a "maverick." To show that she's willing to buck her party. The thing is, the last time McCain did that it was to help people, to prevent the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Sinema really wants to be known as the person who kept her fellow Democrats from lifting million of families out of poverty? Apparently if it gives her a lovely fluff piece in Politico.
Because that's what the rest of the article is, all about her pastel wigs and purple and leopard-print office decor. And how singularly principled she thinks she is in her job, which seems to be a hell of a lot more about her than the people who sent her to the Senate. "It's not effective to pressure me on anything. Because I am a thoughtful person who takes a lot of time, deliberatively, to make decisions," Sinema said. "Once I've made a decision, I feel very comfortable with it. And it doesn't matter what other people think." Never mind those other people who helped get her elected because they need someone standing up for them in the Senate.
"True to form," Everett writes, "Sinema seems more interested in listening than opining at length on the issues of the day. She shuts down a question about how her views play with fellow Democrats: 'Popularity is not my concern.'" Apparently neither are the people she serves. But hey, she sure knows how to get good ink from Politico. Look at this red meat quote: "Bipartisanship is always my first choice," she said. "I also want to make sure that we're getting stuff done for Arizonans. They need help […] and I don't want to see a process that gets bogged down in petty partisanship, like you did last year for much of the year."