Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) on Sunday highlighted the stark difference between most Senate Democrats and Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) when it comes to the urgency of passing voting rights legislation in the wake of the senators’ vote last week joining all Republican senators to oppose a filibuster carveout.
Pressed on his thoughts about the Arizona Democratic Party’s censure of Sinema over the weekend for her refusal to support a filibuster carveout, Coons sidestepped the question, but emphasized that there are only two out of 50 Senate Democrats who voted against a rules change.
“What happened this last week in the Senate is that all 50 Democrats, including Senators Manchin and Sinema, voted for the John Lewis Voting Rights Restoration Act and for the Freedom to Vote Act, which would tackle this problem of voter suppression and voter subversion around the country,” Coons said. “And none of the 50 Republicans in the Senate joined us.”
Coons then noted the “frustrations” among Democrats nationwide over the obstacles of getting voting rights legislation to pass in an evenly divided Senate.
“The right to vote is foundational. It’s not just foundational in the Democratic Party, it’s one of the foundations of our democracy,” Coons said. “We’re going to keep trying. We’re going to keep working at it.”
Coons added that despite Democrats’ dashed hopes of passing voting rights legislation last week, the effort had been an “important fight” to demonstrate the “sharp contrast” between Democrats and Republicans.
“But, more importantly, we need to keep working to make sure that every American can vote and vote safely and vote securely,” Coons said.
Coons’ remarks come amid growing backlash from Democrats nationwide towards Sinema for refusing to support a filibuster carveout, despite her support for the voting rights bills themselves.
On Saturday, the Arizona Democratic Party voted to formally censure Sinema. Raquel Teran, the state party’s chair, said that although it “appreciates” Sinema’s involvement in the passage of COVID-19 relief and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, it condemns the senator’s vote against rules changes for voting rights.
“However, we are also here to advocate for our constituents and the ramifications of failing to pass federal legislation that protects their right to vote are too large and far-reaching,” Teran said in a statement on Saturday following the state party’s vote.
As backlash continues to mount against Sinema, talks of a primary challenger against her in 2024 have already begun.
On Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that it was “absolutely” appropriate for Arizona Democrats to censure Sinema. Sanders also left the door open for potentially campaigning against either Sinema or Manchin in 2024, in support of a yet-to-be chosen primary opponent.
“But if there were strong candidates in those states who were prepared to stand up for working families, who understand that 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,” Sanders said.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) has also claimed that several unnamed senators have already privately urged him to launch a primary challenge against Sinema in 2024.
“To be honest, I have gotten a lot of encouragement from elected officials, from senators, from unions, from your traditional Democratic groups, big donors,” Gallego told CNN. “Everything you can imagine under the sun.”
Watch Coons’ remarks below: