Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema and Washington's Patty Murray were absent from the Senate vote on investigating the U.S. Capitol attack, though both have said they supported its creation

By Virginia Chamlee
June 04, 2021 02:42 PM
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Kyrsten Sinema
Kyrsten Sinema
| Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Days after the Senate narrowly failed to pass a bill that would have established a bipartisan investigation into the deadly Jan. 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Washington Sen. Patty Murray — the two Democrats absent — said they missed the vote due to private issues.

According to the Arizona Republic, Sinema, 44, told reporters, "I had a personal family matter" when asked why she missed the vote.

Murray, 70, likewise told the Seattle Times that she also missed the vote due to a personal obligation, saying in a statement that she had to fly home morning of the vote for "a personal family matter."

Neither lawmaker provided more details. Both previously voiced support for an investigation.

Sinema wrote in a statement released last month with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin that she was in favor of the commission.

"A bipartisan commission to investigate the events of that day ... is a critical step to ensuring our nation never has to endure an attack at the hands of our countrymen again," the statement read "We implore our Senate Republican colleagues to work with us to find a path forward on a commission to examine the events of January 6th."

While the measure to establish the commission passed the House of Representatives, it failed last Friday to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

It drew only 54 votes, including six Republicans, against 35 "nos" — all from other Republicans — and died last Friday. (One Republican who missed the vote, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, also cited a family issue for missing the vote but said he would have voted yes.)

Sinema, who made history in 2018 as Arizona's first female senator and the Senate's first openly bisexual member, has drawn criticism in recent months from some fellow Democrats who say her moderate record is limiting their ability to legislate.

In 2019, she angered some in her party with her vote to confirm Trump nominee Bill Barr for U.S. attorney general (a move she later said she did not regret). She has also repeatedly expressed opposition for getting rid of the 60-vote filibuster for legislation — a rule that has recently stymied the Democratic majority from advancing items such as voting rights.

Speaking to Politico for a 2019 profile, Sinema said that she's staunch in her views and makes no apologies for that.

"Everyone knows that I am very independent-minded," she said. "And that it's not super useful to try and convince me otherwise." 

"I hear all the folks on TV saying, 'Why doesn't Biden get this done?' Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends," he said, in a thinly veiled reference to Sinema and Manchin. "But we're not giving up."

According to FiveThirtyEight's congressional vote tracker, Sinema and Manchin both voted with former President Donald Trump more than any of their fellow Senate Democrats.