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Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is facing anger from supporters and the threat of a primary challenge back home over her moderate stances in DC

Business Insider logo Business Insider 9/30/2021 gpanetta@businessinsider.com (Grace Panetta)
In this Sept. 28, 2021 photo, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., a centrist Democratic senator vital to the fate of President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion "Build Back Better" agenda, departs the Senate before meeting with Biden at the White House, at the Capitol in Washington J. Scott Applewhite/AP © J. Scott Applewhite/AP In this Sept. 28, 2021 photo, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., a centrist Democratic senator vital to the fate of President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion "Build Back Better" agenda, departs the Senate before meeting with Biden at the White House, at the Capitol in Washington J. Scott Applewhite/AP
  • Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is facing mounting anger from supporters back home.
  • Her opposition to the size of Biden's Build Back Better agenda is puzzling and rankling progressives.
  • Two groups in Arizona are launching efforts to possibly back a primary challenger to her in 2024.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is at the center of congressional Democrats' high-stakes push to pass President Joe Biden's economic agenda - but her moderate stances are drawing ire from her progressive supporters back home and even putting her in danger of facing a primary challenge.

Sinema, elected in 2018, was a key player in drafting and passing the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Currently, she's playing an outsize role in determining the fate of the other part of Biden's infrastructure and economic agenda - the Build Back Better bill, a $3.5 trillion package that Democrats will pass along party lines via budget reconciliation.

With the Senate equally divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, Sinema and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin opposing the size of the package can make or break its passage and command Biden's attention. Sinema, for her part, went to the White House three times on Tuesday alone, with White House officials coming to see her again on Wednesday.

Sinema appears to be against some of the spending provisions and the tax increases proposed to pay for them, but has reportedly been tight-lipped with the White House when it comes to a specific number she would be comfortable with.

In a Thursday statement, however, Sinema refuted reporting in Politico suggesting she wanted to hold off on getting down to the brass tacks of the reconciliation package until the House passes the infrastructure bill.

"Senator Sinema said publicly more than two months ago, before Senate passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, that she would not support a bill costing $3.5 trillion," the statement from her office said. "In August, she shared detailed concerns and priorities, including dollar figures, directly with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and the White House. Claims that the Senator has not detailed her views to President Biden and Senator Schumer are false."

The statement added that "while we do not negotiate through the press - because Senator Sinema respects the integrity of those direct negotiations - she continues to engage directly in good-faith discussions" with Biden and Schumer.

Manchin has represented deep-red West Virginia for years, and is often much more willing to explain publicly his opposition to large amounts of government spending. Sinema, by contrast, represents a diversifying swing state that is now trending blue and is often elusive about her reasoning for opposing certain parts of Biden's agenda, far less regularly issuing public statements or speaking to reporters at the US Capitol.

The progressives who knocked on doors for Sinema in 2018 now feel frustrated and betrayed by her opposition to large parts of Biden's Build Back Better agenda and what they see as a lack of urgency on her part to address climate change and protect voting rights, The New York Times reported. Sinema and Manchin oppose eliminating or amending the filibuster threshold to pass liberal priorities, like voting rights, with a simple majority.

In addition to anger from her supporters and Democratic activists on the ground, Sinema also got a major rebuke from the Democratic party in her own state, which approved a resolution threatening a vote of no confidence for Sinema's opposition to the Build Back Better agenda and filibuster reform.

And while Sinema isn't up for reelection until 2024, NBC News reported on Thursday that two groups are launching efforts to fund a potential challenger to her in the Democratic primary to place pressure on her to support more progressive priorities.

One of the efforts, the Primary Sinema PAC, is backed by the well-funded progressive group Way To Win and is working on building up the infrastructure to fund a possible primary challenger for Sinema down the line.

Another effort, Either Sinema Votes to End the Filibuster OR We Fund a Primary Challenger, is aiming to gather $100,000 that will be put toward a primary challenger unless Sinema votes for the full reconciliation bill and votes to end the filibuster.

A major Silicon Valley Democratic donor Karla Jurvetson has also turned on the Arizona senator, Puck News reported, with a source telling the outlet that Jurvetson, who is particularly focused on voting rights, "fucking hates" Sinema and is throwing her financial resources and powerful network behind the effort to find a primary challenger.

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