Congresswoman Takes Heat After Gesture During Vote

Dem. Kyrsten Sinema voted no to minimum wage provision with an enthusiastic thumbs-down
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2021 6:00 AM CST

Bernie Sanders' attempt to attach a minimum wage provision to President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill failed on Friday, and a handful of Democrats helped secure its demise. Among them: Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who's now facing criticism from Democrats not just for her vote against the provision, which would pave the way for an incremental increase to $15 an hour, but also for the way she voted. "Did Sinema really have [to] vote against a $15 minimum wage for 24 million people like this?" a senior adviser to former HUD Secretary Julian Castro tweeted Friday afternoon, showing a short clip of Sinema standing on the Senate floor and giving an exaggerated thumbs-down sign before walking away. A longer video shows her strolling to the front of the room and patting GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell on the back before registering her vote.

USA Today notes Sinema's gesture soon went viral, with some comparing her move to John McCain's dramatic thumbs-down in 2017, when he voted no on overturning the Affordable Care Act. Others who were more disappointed resurfaced a 2014 Sinema tweet in which she said it was a "no-brainer" to push for a minimum wage hike, while a report that Sinema had brought a "large chocolate cake" to share with Senate staffers got #MarieAntoinette trending, per Newsweek and Yahoo. In a statement, Sinema explained her no vote wasn't because she doesn't support an increased minimum wage, but because she doesn't think the provision belongs in the COVID bill, per KOLD. As for the backlash against her thumbs-down: "Commentary about a female senator's body language, clothing, or physical demeanor does not belong in a serious media outlet," a Sinema spokesperson told HuffPost, which in turn noted it was "absurd" that the rep suggested pushback on Sinema was sexist. (Read more Kyrsten Sinema stories.)

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