Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Sunday threw his support behind the Arizona Democratic Party’s censure of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) following her vote against Senate rules changes that would have helped to pass Democrats’ voting rights legislation.
Sanders told CNN that he views the censure by the Democratic party in Sinema’s state as “absolutely” appropriate. Sanders cited both Sinema’s and Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) decisions to join Republicans in voting against a filibuster carveout for voting rights.
“On that particular vote that she and Manchin cast, we were trying to address the reality that you have got 19 Republican states all over this country who are undermining the foundations of American democracy, trying to make it harder for people of color, young people, people with disabilities to vote, coming up with extreme gerrymandering, taking action against independent election officials,” Sanders said.
“And it is so important that we protect American democracy, that we stand up to the big lie of Trump and his allies that he really won the election. And they undermined that effort,” Sanders continued. “I think what the Arizona Democrats did was exactly right.”
Asked whether he would be willing to campaign against either Sinema or Manchin in a Democratic primary, Sanders noted that both senators aren’t up for re-election until 2024, but did not dismiss the possibility.
“But if there were strong candidates in those states who were prepared to stand up for working families, who understand that the Democratic Party has got to be the party of working people taking on big money interests, if those candidates were there in Arizona and West Virginia, yes, I would be happy to support them,” Sanders said.
The Arizona Democratic Party voted to formally censure Sinema on Saturday, days after she refused to support a filibuster carveout to help push Democrats’ voting rights legislation through the Senate.
The state party’s censure of Sinema comes as she faces mounting backlash from Democrats for joining Republicans in torpedoing voting rights legislation.
Sinema has since lost financial support from big donors, such as political action committees EMILY’s List and NARAL, for her refusal to back a filibuster carveout for voting rights bills she says she supports.
Sanders previously signaled his support for a potential primary challenger against Sinema in remarks to reporters last week. Sanders said that he believes that “there is a very good chance” that Manchin and Sinema will face primary challenges in light of their refusal to make any exceptions on the filibuster.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) has reportedly been courted by several unnamed senators privately in recent days to potentially launch a primary challenge against Sinema. Gallego claimed that Sanders was not among the senators who reached out to him recently.
“To be honest, I have gotten a lot of encouragement from elected officials, from senators, from unions, from your traditional Democratic groups, big donors,” Gallego told CNN. “Everything you can imagine under the sun.”
Watch Sanders’ remarks below: