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KJZZ's Friday NewsCap: Will Sen. Kyrsten Sinema still run after border bill whiff?

KJZZ’s Friday NewsCap revisits some of the biggest stories of the week from Arizona and beyond.

Paul Bentz of HighGround and Mike Haener of Lumen Strategies joined The Show to talk about the failure of a border security bill to even make it to debate in the U.S. Senate, a compromise on election issues in the state Legislature and more.

On Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and the failed bipartisan border security bill

MARK BRODIE: Let’s start in D.C,. where we heard just a moment ago from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, clearly not thrilled with the outcome of the border security bill that she helped negotiate. Paul, is this a case of Republicans not being able to take yes for an answer?

PAUL BENTZ: Absolutely. I mean, I think one of the things that Bob Robb pointed out is that a year ago, the Republicans pushed a very harsh, strict border enforcement bill — saying things were broken — and now they’re pushing back against that bipartisan proposal, claiming suddenly that things are fine if the president just used what he had in place in order to enforce the law. They’re really speaking out of both sides of their mouth.

But this is about scoring political points. They know immigration and the border is a big deal for Republicans going into this presidential election. And they want to hold on to that as a topic to talk about.

BRODIE: Mike, safe to say that this was basically due to President Trump. Is that giving him too much credit here?

MIKE HAENER: Oh no, not at all. I think it’s all due to President Trump, and his hold on the Republican Party at this point is unquestioned. And so if he says vote for it, they’re voting for it. If he says vote against it, they will vote against it. And that’s what they did.

BRODIE: Does this give Democrats an opportunity to use immigration for their side as an election issue, to say, “Hey look, Republicans were saying this is a problem. This is a problem. It’s a crisis. It’s a crisis.” We offered a solution. And then suddenly, as Sen. Sinema said in her floor speech, suddenly it’s not a crisis anymore.

HAENER: Yeah. And as Paul said, this is kind of political theater, right? So from a campaign standpoint, it’s a problem. But to solve it, we don’t want to do that. So we want to keep it as a campaign problem. So, again, I think Democrats could use this as an opportunity to say, “We have a fix. We’re going to end catch and release. We’re going to close the border if migration surges.” This is an opportunity for Democrats to take the issue and actually do something positive with it.

BRODIE: Paul, do you think Republicans have left themselves vulnerable on this issue in some way?

BENTZ: I do, because now Democrats can say, “Look, this is the toughest amount of border security or border reform that we’ve seen probably in about 40 years. We offered real solutions. We made compromises. You said this is a problem. We put these proposals in place, and you’re rejecting them.”

It’ll be interesting to see if they can thread that needle, if that narrative, because they’re really trying to tack this — when you talk about what they tried to do with the secretary of Homeland Security — they really are trying to make this a crisis.

But then when offered a solution, they didn’t take it. It’ll be interesting to see if Democrats can run with that and say, “Look, we offered a solution, and they won’t take it.” I don’t know if that will stick, but that’s where they’re going to go.

BRODIE: We heard in the top here, state Rep. Alexander Kolodin, talking about letting the perfect be the enemy of the good as it relates to an election calendar fix, which we’ll talk about in a couple of minutes. Paul, is this a situation, this bill, where that was also the case? Where, at least for some senators, it just wasn’t enough and even though they got some of what they wanted, they couldn’t say yes because they didn’t get enough of what they wanted?

BENTZ: Well, I think they’re going to say that. I’m not sure that’s really what it is. I think really what it is is that they don’t want to lose this issue and potentially tying it with Ukraine and some of the other things that also make it a little bit less palatable for them.

But it was real reform. It was real solutions there. I think you saw, Sen. Sinema, why she’s so frustrated is because I think this was a big issue for her. I think she is one of the very unique people that could bring people together to solve this problem. And I think she came with a solution that really was bipartisan in nature. And it’s roundly rejected, doesn’t even get to be debated because of the politics involved.

BRODIE: Mike, let’s talk about the politics involved. And of course, we’re still waiting on Sen. Sinema to announce whether or not she’s going to seek reelection. Does the failure of this bill to not only become law but to even make it to debate, does that impact her decision in any way, do you think?

HAENER: I don’t think it impacts her decision. Sen. Sinema, I believe, is going to do what’s in the best interest of Arizona, and she’s going to make her decision based off of what she wants to do moving forward.

But I don’t think that this bill in particular is going to change her decision making process.

BRODIE: Do you think she runs?

HAENER: At the end of the day, I think she does.

BRODIE: Paul, what do you think?

BENTZ: I’m not sure if she runs. I think if this had passed or if we had the debate about it, this is a big feather in her cap and one of the biggest things that she could push for and really deliver once again, like she’s done on some of the Biden agenda and other things. She’s been the linchpin on the CHIPS Act and a wide variety of other solutions that she can take credit for and being a big part of.

Had she been able to negotiate the solution, I think this would have been a huge win for her in kicking off her campaign. That being said, I don’t think it’s essential for her run, but I think it would have been a really nice boost to the start of a run.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.