The Daily Agenda: Sinema at the center of the world
Could Sinema really be challenged? Maybe ... The Medicaid work requirements that weren't ... And the most elaborate mailer we've ever seen.
U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is finding out just how hard it is to be a maverick.
Sinema, alongside U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, has been the biggest hurdle standing between President Joe Biden and legislative success on a budget deal or any number of issues. And she’s getting the John McCain treatment from her party.
There’s growing discontent with her in the Democratic ranks — while liberal activist rage helped propel her to the partyless power status she enjoys now, someday, perhaps soon, that calculation could reach a tipping point in which she’s pissed off too many Democrats to survive a primary.
We know... we know… Liberal activists like to make noise. No Democrat in their right mind would challenge her. Even if a Dem could beat her in the primary, they’d be dead in the water for a November election. Her 2024 re-election is a long way off, and a breakthrough on any number of deals could quickly swing the pendulum back in Sinema’s direction. All the traditional wisdom.
But the last few weeks’ news cycle — in which Sinema has withheld her support for Biden’s budget deal and fundraised from its opponents as the government shutdown clock ticks on, not to mention any number of core Democratic policies like minimum wage and voting rights that she has opposed since Democrats won the presidency — have further angered activists, and put pep in the step of her potential Democratic challengers.
Jack Healy and Emily Cochrane of The New York Times declared Sinema at the center of the U.S. political universe yesterday, and not in a good way.
Part of the problem is the betrayal young, Democratic and gay voters feel at seeing a young, bisexual member of Congress stomp on their top political priorities at a moment when Democrats could finally make gains, the Times notes. Part of it is her cagey, I-don’t-have-to-answer-that attitude.
A month or two ago, we would have laughed off the idea that Sinema faces any real danger from the base. But the winds might be changing.
Last weekend, the Arizona Democratic Party, which is steered by its more liberal wing, passed a resolution threatening a vote of no confidence against her if she doesn’t help scrap the filibuster and start passing the Democratic agenda. McCain would almost certainly be chuckling.
Today, activists announced a seemingly serious effort to raise money for a primary challenger via the aptly named Primary Sinema PAC, “a campaign that will fund grassroots efforts in Arizona to hold U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema accountable and prepare to mount a viable primary challenge against her.” The group cited a poll saying two-thirds of Democrats would support a primary challenger who promised to scrap the filibuster.
The PAC says it has no candidate in mind, but will instead fund local groups, starting with LUCHA, that will keep up the pressure and lay the groundwork for a serious challenger to step in.
That’s one of two efforts that launched today. A separate “conditional” campaign via Crowdpac promises to raise $100,000 by October if she doesn’t support scrapping the filibuster.
Sinema, of course, will still have the financial advantage over any Democratic challenger.
But can Democrats find a serious candidate to oust Sinema? And, just as importantly, can the conqueror then mount a successful general election campaign? Who knows? Are they gonna try? It sure looks like it.
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For years, Arizona lawmakers have tried to require people who receive health care from the state’s Medicaid program to work at least part-time, repeatedly seeking approval from the federal government that were denied.
In 2019, under President Donald Trump, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services finally told Arizona it could kick low-income people off public health care if they didn’t work. Advocates immediately warned that it would strip tens of thousands of their health insurance.
But despite the Trump administration’s approval, Arizona never kicked anyone off the state’s health care system for not working. And now, it won’t be happening anytime soon.
Arizona’s planned program, AHCCCS Works Community Engagement Program, would have required able-bodied people age 19 to 49 to complete 80 hours per month of employment, education, job training, job searching or community services. They would have to report their activities that met the requirement each month.
But delays in getting the reporting system up and running threw AHCCCS Works off schedule. In September 2019, the agency told reporter Howie Fischer that the work requirements wouldn’t be in place until fall 2020.
And, well, we all know two big things that happened in 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic caused massive job losses and made health care all the more critical, and Trump lost the November election.
That brings us to June 2021, when The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, now under a Democratic administration, revoked its approval of Arizona’s work requirements, citing the pandemic.
While the decision to institute work requirements received ample coverage at the time, the feds decision to pull approval this summer didn’t seem to grab any headlines, which is why we’re talking about it now. The program would have been up for reapproval Sept. 30, 2021, which is today. If Trump were still president, who knows?
But Republican lawmakers passed a law in 2015 requiring our state Medicaid program to ask the federal government every year to let Arizona require people work to get public health insurance. So the state just asked again, with an ongoing pandemic and still-high unemployment rates.
It may be implemented in the future, depending on how the feds respond. It’s not clear how much it has cost to try to implement this program thus far.
They’re mostly masking up: The Republic’s Yana Kunichoff rounded up the latest about what school districts are doing now that the mask mandate ban has been put on hold.
Hank is about to read his first book since Harry Potter: By now, all the national media types have their hands on advanced copies of former Arizonan Stephanie Grisham’s forthcoming book. (Sadly, we did not make the list. We pre-ordered her book like a couple of normies.) A few highlights include Trump getting a colonoscopy, the story behind the infamous “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” jacket and a meeting with Putin.
We’ll miss drag racing: A bunch of new laws went into effect yesterday, the general effective date for bills approved this past legislative session. The Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl details 12 of the new ones. For example, you can get a four-year degree at a community college now, but you might wanna be careful about drag racing or doxxing people online.
Maybe one day, our leaders will do some self-reflection: Robert Robb, the Republic’s conservative columnist, argues that the Senate’s election review did nothing to stop election conspiracies because prospective and current elected officials continue to bend to the lies of a stolen election. He also credited the press for getting ahead of the spin by publishing drafts of the report showing that the report established Biden as the winner.
Right-wing media had a field day: A viral video filmed at Arizona State University shows two white men (one in a “Did not vote for Biden” shirt and the other with a “Police lives matter” sticker on his computer) in a confrontation with two women of color at the university’s new multicultural space on campus. The women asked the men to leave the space, saying the sticker made students of color feel uncomfortable, reports the Republic’s Alison Steinbach.
Unfortunately, there was no best political newsletter category: The Phoenix New Times put out its 2021 Best of Phoenix edition. Scroll right to the politics section announcing the best Republican and Democratic politicians, best public information officer and activist and more fun categories like best dumbass political move.
Bust out your compasses: The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission starts its map-drawing process in earnest next week, when it starts to tinker with the grid maps put out earlier this month, reports the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda.
How long of a delay is an indefinite one?: At this point, we’re just taking bets whether we’re actually ever going to need a Real ID.
Unrelated to politics: If you’ve ever wondered why the London Bridge is somehow now in Lake Havasu City, it’s an interesting story, and it’s almost the 50th anniversary.
A group supporting Biden’s Build Back Better plan, specifically the child care and paid family leave provisions, conducted a focus group with a dozen voters who backed Sinema in 2018 and Donald Trump in 2016 or 2020. The memo gives a little insight into Arizona’s swingiest voters and shows they’re split on the direction of the country, but all like the idea of more paid medical and family leave, government-subsidized child care and more help from the government in senior care. People like free stuff!
We thought the lenticular mailers attacking Sinema by placing a mushroom cloud over Phoenix were advanced, but ABC 15’s data guru Garrett Archer received perhaps the most elaborate (and expensive) mailer we’ve ever seen. He received a box with the words “medical shipment enclosed” on the front, which contained an empty prescription bottle inside. It was an attack on U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly over prescription drug policies for Medicare Part D recipients, courtesy of the Common Sense Leadership Fund, a conservative political action committee.
The Phoenix East Valley Partnership is hosting a lunch today at 11 a.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel, 1800 S Santan Village Pkwy, Gilbert, with the gubernatorial candidates — all of them except Kari Lake, that is.
Phoenix is hosting a virtual community forum with three potential directors for its Office of Accountability and Transparency. It will be streamed via a public WebEx link, (dial: 602-666-0783 event #2486 344 9711 to listen in Spanish) or on the city's YouTube and Facebook pages, as well as carried live on Cox Cable 11.