Kyrsten Sinema

Here’s how Arizona’s Democratic senator could be considered more conservative than a Trump loyalist. 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has gained a reputation as a centrist Democrat who is willing to work across the aisle. But a recent ranking claims she is ideologically more conservative than Republican hardliner Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Nonpartisan legislation tracking group GovTrack released its annual Congressional Report Cards last month. The group ranked all 535 members of Congress on their political ideology, as determined by how similar the bills and resolutions they co-sponsored in 2019 were to those of other members of Congress. 

With the most conservative senator being ranked No. 1 – Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee – Sinema came in at No. 47, making her the highest-ranked Democrat on the list. This puts her directly above Rand Paul and McConnell, both Kentucky Republicans, as well as several other moderate Republicans, including Lisa Murkowski of Arkansas and Susan Collins of Maine.

But the ranking leaves out a lot of factors, according to the Arizona Capitol Times, including “caucus memberships, media appearances, social media posts, endorsements in campaigns or their penchant for bipartisan friendship.” 

GovTrack President Joshua Tauberer told the newspaper that McConnell may have landed where he did because he’s not as involved in legislation as other lawmakers and his support of President Donald Trump’s conservative judicial nominees was not taken into account. Sinema co-sponsored 311 bills in 2019, while McConnell only co-sponsored 41. Nearly 60% of the bills Sinema co-sponsored were introduced by a Republican, while about 20% of those McConnell co-sponsored were introduced by a Democrat.

Sinema has made waves among the progressive wing of the Arizona Democratic Party for stepping outside of party lines. For example, she stood to applaud when Trump praised the economy at the State of the Union when other Democrats remained seated. She was also considered a possible swing vote during Trump’s impeachment trial, but ultimately voted to convict on both counts. 

Arizona’s junior senator, Martha McSally, came in at No. 34 in the ideology rankings. The Republican, who was appointed to her seat in 2018 to replace the late Sen. John McCain, is an outspoken Trump supporter. She is running against the likely Democrat nominee Mark Kelly to keep her seat this fall. 

Both Sinema and McSally ranked highly when it came to joining bipartisan bills last year. Sinema came in third, while McSally was ranked No. 13. McSally also placed 13th for the number of bipartisan bills she wrote and for “working with the other chamber,” while Sinema fell toward the lower end of those lists.

But the report only considers legislative votes in its ranking, leaving other idealogical actions out of the mix. For example, Sinema was one of three Democrats who voted to confirm William Barr, Trump’s choice for attorney general, but that was not included in these measures of bipartisanship. McSally’s vote against Trump’s move to lift sanctions on Russian companies, however, was factored into her score.

McSally topped the list of lawmakers with the most bills enacted, having a hand in seven of the 169 bills implemented last year. Sinema came in lower on the list, joining 12 other senators, all of whom managed to get three bills enacted in 2019.