Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Saturday unloaded on House Democrats for canceling a vote on the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package she negotiated with Republicans, calling it "inexcusable."
"Arizonans, and all everyday Americans, expect their lawmakers to consider legislation on the merits — rather than obstruct new jobs and critical infrastructure investments for no substantive reason," Sinema said. "What Americans have seen instead is an ineffective stunt to gain leverage over a separate proposal."
Sinema is referring to a $3.5 trillion spending bill that would fund key aspects of President Joe Biden's economic and climate agenda, including free community college tuition, universal pre-K and child care, Medicare expansion, and a host of subsidies and regulations designed to reduce the use of fossil fuels in America. Sinema and fellow moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are opposed to spending $3.5 trillion, citing the cost of these programs and taking issue with the tax increases needed to pay for them.
But Progressive House Democrats have demanded that the Senate agree to the $3.5 trillion bill before they will lend their support to the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate 69-30 in August with 19 Republicans voting in favor of the bill. The infrastructure vote was supposed to happen Monday, but it got pushed back to Thursday and then again to Friday because of intra-party divisions.
When it became clear that Democrats did not have the votes they needed to pass the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) canceled the vote. President Biden has met with Democratic lawmakers several times, urging them to come to an agreement on the reconciliation package and pass both bills, so far without success.
Sinema's opposition to the reconciliation package has outraged progressive activists, who have accused her of being beholden to special interests and big-money donors opposed to the Green New Deal.
"My vote belongs to Arizona, and I do not trade my vote for political favors — I vote based on what is best for my state and the country. I have never, and would never, agree to any bargain that would hold one piece of legislation hostage to another," said Sinema on Saturday.
Stating good-faith negotiations "require trust," the Arizona Democrat accused leaders in her party of being dishonest with the American people about the divisions between progressives and moderates on Biden's agenda.
"Over the course of this year, Democratic leaders have made conflicting promises that could not all be kept — and have, at times, pretended that differences of opinion within our party did not exist, even when those disagreements were repeatedly made clear directly and publicly," Sinema said.
"Canceling the infrastructure vote further erodes that trust. More importantly, it betrays the trust the American people have placed in their elected leaders and denies our country crucial investments to expand economic opportunities."
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of the 19 Republicans who supported the infrastructure bill, also slammed House Democrats for delaying the infrastructure vote in a "purely political decision."
"It is unacceptable that a major piece of bipartisan legislation, which is vital to our economy and necessary to keep important transportation programs going, is being held hostage by the most extreme House Democrats for a completely unrelated and still unwritten piece of legislation," he said in a statement. "What a profound disappointment, and how unfortunate to put politics over what is good for our country."