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Mitt Romney praises Kyrsten Sinema, explains why he thinks she became ‘toxic’ to Democrats

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney had high praise for his colleague Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, crediting her with bringing senators together from both major parties to pass legislation, and for standing up for the filibuster at a time when she was pressured to change the Senate rules to see it eliminated.

Sinema, an independent from Arizona, was elected as a Democrat in 2018, but she left the party in 2022, telling CNN at the time, “I’ve never fit neatly into any party box. I’ve never really tried. I don’t want to.” Earlier this year, Sinema announced she would not run for reelection.

As Sinema was speaking with Washington Post reporter Yvonne Wingett Sanchez at the McCain Institute’s Sedona Forum in Sedona, Arizona, on Friday, Romney joined the conversation from the audience to share his perspective on why he believes Sinema is an effective senator.

“By virtue of intelligence, personality, energy, and a willingness to dig in, she’s been able to get people to work together,” Romney said.

“Mitch McConnell said she is the most effective senator in the United States Senate — that’s Mitch McConnell on the other side of the aisle, who said she is the most effective,” he said. McConnell is the Republican Senate minority leader.

“We’ve worked together on a number of bipartisan bills. She was the power behind them,” Romney said.

Romney, a Republican, said there are some members in his own caucus who he finds it difficult to work with, but Sinema “loves them.”

“Before I left last week, I was sitting next to my colleagues in the back row of the Senate, it was Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., on one side, and (North Carolina Sen.) Thom Tillis on the other,” he said. “And we were talking about, ‘how is this place going to work without Kyrsten Sinema?’

“When there are impasses — and there are often impasses — she goes back and forth. And I have to tell you, there’s some people in my own party that I find distasteful, and she loves them.”

“I love them,” Sinema chimed in. “I love them. I know who he’s talking about and they are great.”

“She loves them, and she’s able to get them to do things I would never be able to get them to do, because they can tell I don’t like them,” he said, as the audience and Sinema laughed. “And she does, and she’s highly effective.”

‘Do not get rid of that rule’

Romney also spoke about why he thinks Sinema lost support among Democrats.

“Why did she become so toxic to the base of the Democratic Party? What was it? What was the point when that really came home? And that was on the so-called filibuster rule,” he said.

The Senate cloture rule, referred to as the filibuster, requires 60 votes to move most legislation forward in the Senate.

Romney said he thinks the term filibuster is “a terrible misnomer,” saying the rule is really about requiring Republicans and Democrats to come together to find compromise.

By virtue of intelligence, personality, energy, and a willingness to dig in, she’s been able to get people to work together.

–Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah

“Kyrsten Sinema felt that was important,” he said.

During the early years of Donald Trump’s presidency, when Republicans held the House and Senate, there was internal pressure among Republicans to get rid of the filibuster, he said.

In the midst of that pressure, 33 Democratic senators sent a letter to McConnell saying, “‘do not get rid of that rule. It is absolutely essential to the preservation of democracy to make sure that we compromise,'” Romney said.

“And guess what? When the time came when the Democrats had the House and the Senate and the White House, every single person who had signed it on the Democratic side decided to vote to get rid of the 60-vote rule, every one of them — and who was it that took the blame for saying no?,” Romney asked, referring to Sinema, who refused to vote to get rid of the filibuster, leading to her censure by the Arizona Democratic Party.

‘Are we thinking about tomorrow?’

“What’s extraordinary to me is that there was not a hue and cry for the Democratic Party to say, ‘Wait a second, this person has integrity and the other 33, where the heck are they?’ But instead they went after her. It speaks volumes about the divisiveness in our country,” he said.

Sinema said she felt her vote to keep the filibuster was “the most important vote I ever took in my entire 20 years,” adding she doesn’t “regret it at all.”

Romney asked Sinema what she thought would heal the divisiveness in the country. He said he does not believe a third party can succeed, naming the political party Forward and political organization No Labels.

In response, Sinema said Americans need to tamp down their selfish tendencies and instead think about what is good for the long term.

“We’ve got to shift back to this place of thinking (about) more than just the short-term personal victory. And think about the impact of our desires, our behaviors and our actions, not just for ourselves, but in our communities,” she said.

“How does our behavior impact others? Are we thinking about tomorrow, or the next thing, or 10 years from now?” she continued. “And if we as a culture can begin to do that, that’s how we can tolerate differences of opinion, embrace the idea that someone else might have an opinion different than your own, and — crazy, I know — but that they actually might have a better idea than yours, and that you could learn and change or grow from it.”

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