Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday introduced Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema as “the most effective first-term senator I’ve seen” during a speech in the Kentucky Republican’s home state.

McConnell hailed Sinema’s role in retaining the Senate’s filibuster rules that require 60 votes for most non-budget legislation. He also credited her as a key architect of last year’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, this year’s $280 billion computer chips legislation and a law that enhances gun background checks for young adults.

“I’ve only known Kyrsten for four years, but she is, in my view, and I told her this before, the most effective first-term senator I’ve seen in my time in the Senate,” said McConnell, who has been a senator for nearly 38 years.

“She today is what we have too few of them in the Democratic Party: a genuine moderate and a deal-maker.”

McConnell gave his glowing review to Sinema, whose vote can control the outcome of partisan budget reconciliation bills and nominations in the 50-50 Senate, while introducing her at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center.

Mitch McConnell.
Sen. Mitch McConnell called Sen. Kyrsten Sinema “a genuine moderate and a deal-maker.”
AFP via Getty Images

“If you’re looking at a football field, and you’ve got divided government or a lot of big differences on big issues, look at the things within the 40-yard lines you can agree on and try to do those,” McConnell said. “We’ve done some of that even though this is an all-Democratic government right now.”

He added, “Kyrsten has been right in the middle of it, if not the principal leader of getting us to the outcome in a highly partisan time — on infrastructure, on school safety, mental health, postal reform, the CHIPS bill, you name it, every single thing that we’ve been able to work together on.”

McConnell said “I have a very high opinion” of Sinema for holding her ground against Democrats who wanted her to support ending the 60-vote threshold for most bills.

Kyrsten Sinema.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema played a role in last year’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, this year’s $280 billion computer chips legislation and a law that enhances gun background checks for young adults.
AFP via Getty Images

“Some of you may recall that the former president [Donald Trump] would harangue me on virtually a weekly basis about trying to lower the threshold in the Senate from 60 to 51. In other words, turn the Senate into the House. If we did that, we’d have fancier desks, but we’d be a lot like the House,” McConnell said.

“And how that would damage the country is things would go back and forth and back and forth — and a lack of stability. That’s not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they created the United States Senate. They created it to stop bad stuff and to allow things that we could agree on to go forward. That was not fashionable in the Democratic Party in the last year and a half. And 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 short-term goals.’”

Sinema, speaking after McConnell, called for greater centrism and negotiation in Washington, saying most people “don’t have the time or energy to think about politics every waking moment” and that she “promised I’d be an independent voice for our whole state, not just those who shared my party identification.”

The Democrat, whose six-year term ends in 2024, said she and other Senate centrists have tried to “shut out noise from the extremes” and try not to “demonize each other.”

Sinema even called for restoring the 60-vote threshold for presidential nominations.

“Those of you who are parents in the room know that the best thing you can do for your child is not give them everything they want,” Sinema said.

“Not only am I committed to the 60-vote threshold, I have an incredibly unpopular view: I actually think we should restore the 60-vote threshold for the areas in which [it] has been eliminated already,” she said. “If we did restore it, we would actually see more of that middle ground in all parts of our governance, which is what I believe our forefathers intended.”

In 2013, Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid led his party in casting aside the super-majority requirement for judicial nominees with the exception of Supreme Court nominees. In 2017, McConnell applied the lower standard to win confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.

Although McConnell offered warm words for Sinema, the Democrat has also supported all of President Biden’s significant legislative achievements.

The Republican leader didn’t mention that Sinema provided her vote to Democratic spending legislation that he and other conservatives blame for the worst inflation in 41 years, including the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act.

Sinema also supported Biden’s recent $437 billion environmental and health care bill, which is offset in theory by a projected $737 billion increase in revenue, including via an IRS crackdown that Republicans say will impact the easier-to-target middle class.

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