An Open Letter to Senator Kyrsten Sinema
Dear Senator Sinema,
I’m writing to thank you for the wonderful work you did in creating and convincing the Senate to pass a bi-partisan infrastructure bill. In this highly charged partisan period, this was a remarkable accomplishment. Congratulations, and thank you from me and a large majority of Americans. Your great work extends well beyond the boundaries of Arizona.
I have watched in great disappointment over the last ten years at the missed opportunities and apparent dysfunction of the Senate. I don’t know how you and others are able to carry out your work. Bills supported by the majority of Americans have been turned away without even a vote. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has been able to stop virtually any bill from passing, even those that enjoy huge support around the country. Bills to close corporate tax loopholes, shine light on large campaign donations, expand social security benefits, protect immigrants, reduce wage disparity, stop voter suppression, and prevent gerrymandering, have all been blocked.
This situation in the Senate prevents critical needs in this country from being effectively addressed including climate change, immigration reform, and providing equal rights for all citizens. We must have a Senate that is able to do this work, and I am hoping that you will help do that. Your efforts on the infrastructure bill were a very good start.
However, it appears that infrastructure was perhaps the best opportunity for the bipartisan work that you did so effectively. I am much less optimistic about bipartisan support for the other issues I mentioned, particularly the two voting rights bills now in the Senate — the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. There appears to be little to no Republican support for these critical bills. Our democracy is under attack as witnessed by the insurrection on January 6 and the voter suppression bills being adopted in many states. We must find a way to pass these bills and have a flourishing democracy. That’s what we and other countries need and expect of us.
Based on readings I have done, it appears these bills can succeed by changing the filibuster rules to enable a majority of senators to pass this much needed legislation. I understand that the minority should still have a right to raise concerns and suggest amendments to proposed legislation. Bipartisanship should always be the goal. However, the minority should not have the right to prevent even discussion of these bills on the Senate floor. I know that you have been against filibuster reform in the past, preferring to take a bipartisan approach. Under normal circumstances I would agree with that philosophy. But in these circumstances where bipartisan support can not be achieved, I would ask that you put the needs of the nation first. We need to have a strong democracy where all citizens can vote. The alternative will lead to a very sad decline for this country.
A fairly simple change to the undemocratic filibuster rules can help save our democracy and our country. I pray that you will support such a change.
Best regards and a huge thank you!
Fred Van Deusen