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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema joins McConnell in Louisville, calls for bipartisanship

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Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema speaks at University of Louisville's McConnell Center.

Arizona U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, joined Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for an event in Louisville on Monday, calling for more bipartisanship in politics and advocating for strengthening the 60-vote threshold for most votes in the chamber.

Sinema has crossed party lines several times since she first joined the Senate in 2019, irking many Democrats and winning acclaim from Republicans like McConnell.

In the speech at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, Sinema said that restoring the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for votes like judicial appointments would force lawmakers to compromise.

“I believe that if we did restore it we would actually see more of that middle ground in all parts of our governance,” she said.

Most votes in the 100-member U.S. Senate require 60 votes to pass, but lawmakers have chipped away at the rule in recent years.

After McConnell and other Republicans held up a series of executive appointments during the Obama administration, then-Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid eliminated the use of the 60-vote threshold on presidential nominees.

When Republicans gained power, McConnell ended the threshold for U.S. Supreme Court nominees in 2017, allowing Justice Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed with just 54 out of 100 votes.

With the Senate currently divided at an even 50-50, some Democrats have called for eliminating the 60-vote threshold, a move McConnell has said would create a “nuclear winter” in the Senate.

Sinema said she’s on the same page as McConnell–arguing that the threshold forces lawmakers to represent a broad set of viewpoints, “not just the passion of the moment.”

“The Senate was designed to be a place that moves slowly, to cool down those passions. To think more strategically and longterm about the legislation before us,” she said.

Sinema touted bipartisan bills like last year’s $1 trillion Infrastructure Law and the gun safety legislation that President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this year.

Sinema said she has forged a friendship with McConnell and that she doesn’t “view life on a partisan lens.”

McConnell called her a “genuine moderate” and said she is “one of the most effective first-term senators” he has seen.

“It takes a lot of guts for Kyrsten Sinema to stand up and say ‘I’m not going to break the institution to achieve a short term goal.’ The biggest compliment to her is that she protects the institution of the Senate,” McConnell said.

This year’s midterm elections will determine who controls the Senate. McConnell is hoping he will become the Senate Majority Leader again, a post he lost when Democrats won control of the chamber in 2021.

Sinema predicted that the Senate will “change again in just a few weeks.”

Divya is LPM's Capitol Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.