One of the biggest questions circling around Washington these days is “what the hell is Kyrsten Sinema’s deal?” People need an answer to that question because Sinema is at the heart of negotiations over the two big bills Democrats are trying to pass (the latest news on that front is that nobody knows when anything is going to happen) and she is something of an endless void, an inscrutable presence whose thoughts and motivations appear certain only to her. She doesn’t cooperate with the endless string of profiles trying to work out her whole thing, so she remains elusive.
Luckily, one journalist seems to have a direct line to Sinema’s inner workings: Axios’ Hans Nichols. Twice in the past few weeks, Nichols has published a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what’s going on in Sinemaworld—and, by sheer coincidence, he keeps finding “allies” of Sinema’s who tell him that what’s going on is that Kyrsten Sinema is awesome!
Nichols’ first dispatch from Kyrsten’s Korner came in mid-September, when he dramatically revealed that Sinema was a hardcore wonk who was coming to talks about the reconciliation bill armed with…spreadsheets:
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is negotiating the size and scope of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget plan armed with her own spreadsheets about the costs and tax hikes needed for each program, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.
Why it matters: While Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is getting attention for balking at a $3.5 trillion top-line price tag, Sinema’s accountant-like focus on the bottom line will be equally important to winning the votes of them and other key Democrats.
Behind the scenes: Sinema refers to her spreadsheets as she strategizes with colleagues about next steps in the budget process.
- As House and Senate committees begin to write specific legislation, she’s updating her data to ensure she has accurate top- and bottom-line figures.
The bottom line: By internalizing the numbers, Sinema is prepared to challenge parts of Biden’s overall $3.5 trillion package.
Wow, a senator who is negotiating about the price tag of a bill is keeping track of what the price tag of the bill is? And using SPREADSHEETS to do it?? That is major stuff. Thank god “people familiar with the matter” passed this vital info along to Axios.
On Friday morning, Nichols was back, this time with a guide to “cracking the Sinema code.” It starts with a big message to anyone thinking of messing with the senator:
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s political allies have some free advice for anyone trying to bully the wine-drinking triathlete into supporting President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget bill: She doesn’t play by Washington’s rules — and she’s prepared to walk away.
Thanks, Kyrsten Sinema’s political allies, for letting us know that she is fierce and fearless and not to be toyed with! I love when arguments about whether or not a senator should stand in the way of trillions of dollars in social spending get reduced to stenography about a fearless rebel who doesn’t CARE what The Man says.
It goes on like this:
Between the lines: Progressives could be forgiven for presuming that Sinema, 45, the first openly bisexual member of Congress, who’s easy to spot in her trademark sleeveless dresses, wry wigs and acrylic glasses, would share their woke politics.
This says a lot more about what Axios thinks left-wing politics are than what actual left-wingers might think!
She’s unconventional (see: recent internship at a Sonoma winery) and a force to be reckoned with. She’s known to rise between 4-5 a.m. to train for her next race, and she was forced to take up aqua jogging after breaking her foot this summer in something called the “Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon.”
A rich white woman loving wine and running…how unconventional.
A trained social worker who relied on Pell grants in college, Sinema believes in the power of government to help lift people from poverty.
Good to know! In between all of this flattery, Nichols gives us some actual detail of what Sinema might accept (the child tax credit) and oppose (making corporations pay more money, lol). But it’s all bracketed by the same weird declarations about how savvy, tough and interesting she is.
Clearly, Sinema’s camp has chosen Nichols to just transmit her favored thoughts back to the rest of us with zero scrutiny. It’s weird that someone considers that part of their job description, but that is Axios for you.
Update, 12:48 p.m. ET: I gotta say, planting a story about how you’re “prepared to walk away” and then literally walking away from negotiations a couple hours later is keeping a firm hold on your personal brand: