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Anger as Sinema and Manchin high five at Davos summit over pledge not to reform filibuster

Moment occurred at gathering of global elites and could be boon to a progressive challenger

John Bowden
Washington DC
Wednesday 18 January 2023 18:18 GMT
Democratic senator Kyrsten Sinema defends her support for filibuster

The US Senate’s two most controversial Democrats appeared eager to taunt their party’s left flank as they appeared in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum this week.

Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin appeared onstage for a panel discussion at the gathering and shared a moment that seemed almost scripted and engineered to anger progressives in their party who have accused them of clinging to archaic Senate procedures in order to block legislation dealing with voting rights and other serious issues.

At one point, the West Virginia Democrat turned to his newly independent Arizona colleague (who has said she will still caucus with Democrats) and asked, seemingly unprompted: "We still don't agree on getting rid of the filibuster, correct?"

"That's correct," Ms Sinema responded, as the two high-fived.

It was a strange interaction that nonetheless had the intended effect on Twitter, riling up left-leaning accounts who derided the two for their attendance of the annual gathering’s ritzy dinners and galas.

Ms Sinema in particular has been the target of ridicule from the left given her past history as a progressive activist and member of the Green Party, not to mention the fact that unlike Mr Manchin she hails from a solidly purple state with two Democratic senators which Joe Biden won in 2020.

“Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin—surrounded by billionaire CEOs in Davos—share a high five after agreeing that they won’t reform the Senate filibuster,” tweeted Sawyer Hackett, a senior adviser to former Housing Secretary Julian Castro. “She still hasn’t held a town hall for her constituents.”

“Kyrsten Sinema hasn’t held a town hall in Arizona for years. Instead, she flies to Switzerland for a town hall with the rich and powerful. Not a Joke!” wrote Ruben Gallego, a member of the US House who has publicly mused about challenging Ms Sinema for her seat in Arizona.

And MSNBC’s Chris Hayes wrote: “I've heard from wealthy donors that Sinema is at her most comfortable and gregarious around rich donors and you can really see it here!”

The two were not the only US senators to appear at Davos this week. Delaware’s Chris Coons, another centrist Democrat, was also in attendance as were several members of the US House, according to news reports. Georgia’s Gov Brian Kemp, thought to be potentially considering national ambitions after going up against a candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump and winning in his primary last year, was also spotted.

A group called “Replace Sinema”, organised by progressives to mobilise support for a challenge to her Senate seat, derided the senator in a statement to Common Dreams.

"Sinema has always been and will always be all about Sinema. She doesn't care who her policies hurt. She doesn't care that she stood in the way of voting rights and abortion rights, as long as she got the headlines she wanted," Sacha Haworth told the news outlet. "Now, she's on stage in Switzerland, in front of an audience of billionaires and Wall Street CEOs, bragging about her obstruction and giving high-fives. It's no wonder she's so unpopular among Arizonans of every political stripe."

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