12.12.2022 0

If Laxalt had won in Nevada, Sinema’s departure from the Democratic Party could have handed the Senate Majority Leader spot to McConnell

By Robert Romano

If Adam Laxalt had won his Senate race in Nevada, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) might have become Senate Majority Leader thanks to Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s defection from the Democratic Party.

Prior to Sinema’s departure from the Democrats, a win by Laxalt would have had the Senate tied 50-50 in 2023. But without Sinema voting for Senate Majority Leader, the vote would have gone 50-49 for McConnell, effectively handing Republicans control of the chamber.

The math in itself is interesting but it is an important question about whether that was what intended all along. And if so, what was the price of Sinema’s defection?

On Sept. 26, Sinema and McConnell did a joint event to praise Sinema’s defense of the Senate filibuster, which President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats have advocated getting rid of, with McConnell stating, “It took one hell of a lot of guts for Kyrsten Sinema to stand up and say, ‘I’m not going to break the institution in order to achieve a short-term goal.’”

At the event, McConnell praised her as “one of the most effective first-term senators I’ve seen in my time in the Senate.”


But Sinema may have been on her way out anyway, as Democratic Party observers have since noted that Sinema was almost certainly going to face a primary challenger in 2024 for her role in thwarting President Joe Biden’s legislation agenda on eliminating the Senate filibuster, packing the U.S. Supreme Court, nationalizing mail-in ballots for all elections, enacting the Green New Deal and many other items that now will never become law, at least not anytime soon, as Republicans are set to reclaim the U.S. House of Representatives in January.

In the meantime, Sinema for her part has appeared more interested in bipartisan legislative approaches in the Senate, offering her votes for the $550 billion infrastructure bill or more recently legislation by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which passed 61 to 36 with 12 Republicans in favor.

The repeal of DOMA was in part helped along by Senate Minority Leader McConnell saying almost nothing about the legislation, with Sen. Baldwin noting that there was no GOP leader recommendation on the bill: “On cloture, the only placard on the Republican side was ‘Collins, Portman and Tillis recommend a Yes on cloture.’… There was no leader recommendation.”

Now, Sinema has another piece of legislation by herself and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) being considered during the current post-election lame duck Congress that would grant amnesty to more than 2 million illegal immigrants who were a part of former President Barack Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The apparent impact so far has been to sacrifice Republican preferred approaches to legislation in exchange for power, rather than concessions on the legislation itself, including First Amendment protections for religious institutions on the repeal of DOMA, an amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) which failed.

But what is the purpose of the Senate Republican leader if not to advance Republican legislation and block Democratic legislation? How come Republicans got nothing in return for letting DOMA get repealed?

Looking back, was repealing DOMA and maybe even letting amnesty for DACA pass the price of McConnell’s majority that never was?

One tell might be whether McConnell does anything to prevent the legislation from coming to floor, as in the repeal of DOMA, where McConnell’s absence created the space for Republican senators to vote in favor of it.

Now that the Senate majority is no longer on the line, does McConnell let the amnesty pass? We might be about to find out.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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