. DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSWOMAN KYRSTEN SINEMA REPRESENTS ARIZONA'S 9TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. SHE'S ALSO RUNNING FOR THE U.S. SENATE SEAT BEING VACATED BY SENATOR JEFF FLAKE. WE RECENTLY SPOKE WITH REPRESENTATIVE SINEMA ABOUT A VARIETY OF ISSUES, INCLUDING HER ROLE IN ATTEMPTING TO PROTECT ARIZONA PROP-123, WHICH SETTLED A LAWSUIT OVER EDUCATION INFLATION FUNDING.
TED SIMONS: GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE.
KYRSTEN SINEMA: IT'S GOOD TO BE HERE.
TED SIMONS: LET'S TALK ABOUT PROP 123 AND YOUR ATTEMPT ALONG WITH SENATOR MCCAIN TO PROTECT 123 FROM AT LEAST ONE JUDGE SAYING THIS MAY NOT BE LEGAL.
KYRSTEN SINEMA: IT TURNS OUT WHAT WE WERE ABLE TO DO IN CONGRESS SOLVED THAT PROBLEM. SENATOR MCCAIN AND I WORKED TOGETHER OVER THE LAST SEVERAL MONTHS, WORKING HAND IN HAND WITH GOVERNOR DUCEY. BACK IN 2016 THE VOTERS PASSED PROP 123. THAT PROPOSITION SAID VOTERS COULD TAKE MORE MONEY OUT OF THE TRUST FUND INTEREST POOL AND USE IT TO FUND PUBLIC EDUCATION. THERE WAS A QUESTION ON WHETHER OR NOT THE STATE COULD GO THAT WITHOUT CONGRESS APPROVAL. BECAUSE WE ARE A STATE TRUST LAND STATE, YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO USE THE DOLLARS. WHEN GOVERNOR DUCEY ASKED SENATOR MCCAIN AND I TO HELP, WE WERE MORE THAN HAPPY TO DO SO. JUST LAST WEEK WE HAD LANGUAGE THAT SAID CONGRESS ENABLES THE WILL OF THE VOTERS AS EXPRESSED IN PROP 123.
YET THE JUDGE IS SAYING THERE IS NOTHING THERE TO MAKE THIS RETROACTIVE WHICH IF IT HOLDS THE STATE COULD BE ON THE LINE FOR 300,000,000 MORE DOLLARS. DOES THAT CONCERN YOU?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: WE EXPECT THAT THE APPELLATE COURT WILL AGREE WITH OUR INTERPRETATION THAT THE CONGRESS ENABLING ACT COVERS THE INTENT OF THE POP 123, WHICH WILL COVER ALL $3.5 BILLION DIRECTED TO THE EDUCATION SYSTEM.
TED SIMONS: DOES IT CONCERN YOU THAT CONGRESS WOULD BASICALLY ABDICATE TAKE OVERARCHING SUPERVISORY OBLIGATIONS IN A CASE LIKE THIS?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: THE LANGUAGE THAT WE INSERTED IN THIS BILL SPECIFICALLY SAYS THIS SAYS WE'LL HONOR THE WILL OF THE VOTERS TO ALLOW THIS TO OCCUR. IT DOESN'T ABROGATE ASPECTS, IT SAYS WE AGREE WITH THE VOTERS THAT THEY CAN USE THAT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION.
TED SIMONS: YOU WORK WITH SENATOR MCCAIN ON THIS?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: YES.
TED SIMONS: HOW SO?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: HE IS IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE SO HE REACHED OUT AND WROTE A LETTER IN DECEMBER TO SENATOR MACAUCLASKI, THE HEAD OF THE COMMITTEE THAT DEALS WITH LAND ISSUES. I REACHED OUT TO MY COLLEAGUES ON THE SENATE SIDE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS. TOGETHER WE COVERED THE FOUR CORNERS TO PASS WITHOUT PROBLEM.
TED SIMONS: GOVERNOR SAYS HE'S NOT TERRIBLY WORRIED ABOUT THE CHALLENGE. HOW ABOUT YOU?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: WE FEEL CONFIDENT. SENATOR MCCAIN AND I MADE SURE THE WE WERE INTRODUCING LANGUAGE HONORED THE VOTERS AND THIS JUDGE OR A FUTURE JUDGE WILL UNDERSTAND THE INTENT.
TED SIMONS: WHAT ARE YOUR CONCERNS RIGHT NOW IN CAPITOL HILL? I ASKED ABOUT THE TEMPERATURE ON CAPITOL HILL.
KYRSTEN SINEMA: I THINK HE SAID IT WAS HOT.
TED SIMONS: FROM A DISTANT, IT SEEMS LIKE CRAZY TIMES. NOTHING IS STABLE. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT'S GOING ON. HOW DO YOU SEE IT?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: I THINK MOST ARIZONANS AGREE THAT WASHINGTON IS FULL OF CHAOS. THEY ARE GETTING A MESS OF CHAOS AND DYSFUNCTION. I'M PROUD TO REPORT AS HAS BEEN MY STYLE FOR NOW 13 YEARS, EVEN IN A MESS OF CHAOS AND DYSFUNCTION, WE CAN CUT THROUGH THAT TO SOLVE PROBLEMS. WORKING ON BOTH SIDE OF THE ISLE. PROP 123 IS ONE EXAMPLE. WHAT YOU SEE ON TELEVISION IS CHAOTIC, WE CAN GET THINGS QUIETLY BEHIND THE SCENES. JUST CONTINUE TO WORK THROUGH THIS DYSFUNCTION TO SOLVE PROBLEMS FOR ARIZONA FAMILIES.
TED SIMONS: THE ECONOMY GREW 2.9% LAST QUARTER OF LAST YEAR. NORTH KOREA MEETING WITH CHINA, NORTH KOREA AND SOUTH KOREA WITH A SUMMIT. THINGS ARE HAPPENING, YET IT FEELS AGAIN LEADERSHIP IS OFF THE RAILS. DOES THAT CONCERN YOU? I MEAN WE WERE DEALING RIGHT NOW RUSSIA NOW SAYS THEY CAN KNOCKOUT ANY MISSILE WE THROW UP THERE AT A CERTAIN TIME AND CERTAIN RANGE. THAT HAS TO CONCERN YOU?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: WE ACTUALLY HAVE A LOT OF CONCERNS. THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS I'M SO WORRIED ABOUT JOHN MCCAIN NOT BEING IN WASHINGTON. THANK GOODNESS HE CONTINUES TO SHARE HIS VOICE NOT JUST IN WASHINGTON AND CAPITOL HILL, BUT WORLDWIDE. HIS LEADERSHIP TO ENSURE THE REST OF THE WORLD THAT ARIZONA IS HIS IS A BEACON ON A HILL IS IMPORTANT. CONGRESS' JOB IS TO PROVIDE OVER SIGHT TO THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH AND ENSURE ACTIONS TAKEN ARE RIGHT FOR AMERICAN FAMILIES AND BUSINESSES.
TED SIMONS: IS IT CONGRESS' JOB TO PROVIDE OVER SIGHT OF THE PRESIDENT -- HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION? SHOULD IT BE STOPPED, SHOULD IT CONTINUE?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: IT'S IMPORTANT THAT IT CONTINUE. IT'S THE JOB OF THE CONGRESS AND THE EXECUTIVE TO LEAVE THAT ALONE TO CONTINUE SO YOU KNOW YOU ARE FINDING THE TRUTH AND HONORING THE INTEGRITY OUR FOREFATHERS INTENDED WHO CREATED WITH CHECKS AND BALANCES.
TED SIMONS: YET THERE ARE SOME, MOSTLY REPUBLICANS, ALL REPUBLICANS LETS FACE IT. THERE ARE MANY SAYING THE SITUATION IS BIASED, TOO MANY DEMOCRATICS ON THAT A DEEP STATE APPLICATION GOING ON. WHAT DO YOU THINK
KYRSTEN SINEMA: THAT'S JUST POLITICS. THERE ARE REPUBLICAN STANDING UP FOR THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION AND RULE OF LAW. CONGRESSMAN TRE GAUDY SAID CLEARLY THE MUELLER INVESTIGATION MUST CONTINUE. I THINK HE'S SAYING THAT BECAUSE HE'S A FORMER PROSECUTOR. SO HE UNDERSTANDS. IT'S IMPORTANT TO LET THE INVESTIGATION TO WORK ITS WAY UNFETTERED BY POLITICAL HANDS.
TED SIMONS: YOU DON'T THINK MUELLER SHOULD RESIGN OR BE FIRED?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: ABSOLUTELY NOT. IT'S CRITICAL THAT HE CONTINUE UNFETTERED BY POLITICS OF EITHER PARTY'S OPINION.
TED SIMONS: MARCH FOR OUR LIVES A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, THE REACTION YOU HAD IN WASHINGTON WHERE THE BIGGEST MARCH OCCURRED -- IS THIS -- WE HAVE HEARD IT'S A TIPPING POINT. DO YOU THINK IT'S A TIPPING POINT?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: I HAVE TO SAY, I HAVE TREMENDOUS RESPECT FOR THE YOUNG PEOPLE ORGANIZING THIS WAY. I AM INSPIRED BY THEM. I DON'T KNOW ABOUT WHEN YOU WERE A TEENAGER, BUT FOR ME, TO SEE THEM ORGANIZING ACROSS THE COUNTRY. I UNDERSTAND THE PARENTS AND KIDS ARE WORRIED. NO PARENT SHOULD WORRY ABOUT SENDING THEIR CHILD TO SCHOOL. CONGRESS HAS TAKEN ACTION THAT IS A START DOWN THE ROAD OF WHAT SHOULD BE DONE. THE MAJOR OMNIBUS BILL, THERE IS A BILL TO BE PROUD OF CALLED THE STOP ACT. IT APPROPRIATES NEW DOLLARS. I USED TO BE A SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKER. IT WAS MY JOB TO IDENTIFY A KID THAT COULD BECOME A DANGER TO THEMSELVES OR OTHERS AND GET THEM APPROPRIATE TREATMENT. MOST SCHOOLS HAVE NO ONE LIKE THAT IN THEIR SETTING. THEY HAVE NO ONE HELPING THEM WHEN PROBLEMS OCCUR. I'M HAPPY TO SEE WE ARE INVESTING IN MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS.
TED SIMONS: THERE ARE THOSE THAT SAY, THAT'S GREAT BUT DOES NOTHING ABOUT GETTING GUNS OFF THE STREET. SHOULD AR15 RIFLES BE AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC? SHOULD AR-15 BE AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: I THINK CONGRESS SHOULD FOCUS ON WHAT'S REASONABLE AND POSSIBLE. ONE OF THE THINGS WE ARE WORKING ON NOW IS ADDRESSING BACKGROUND CHECKS. WE PASSED THE FIXED MIX BILL ADDRESSING THE BACKGROUND CHECKS IN THE SYSTEM. THERE ARE PROBLEMS IN THE SYSTEM. RIGHT NOW, SOMEONE DANGEROUSLY ILL CAN GET ACCESS TO WEAPONS. ARIZONANS BROADLY AFREE THAT NO ONE SHOULD HAVE THAT ACCESS. SO THAT'S WHERE WE NEED TO FOCUS OUR ENERGY. THAT'S SOMETHING WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO GET DONE IN CONGRESS.
TED SIMONS: WHAT ABOUT BACKGROUND CHECKS PERP TO PERSON SALES, UNLICENSED DEALERS THESE SORT OF THINGS? NRA SAYS IF YOU ARE A CRIMINAL YOU CAN GET THEM WHEREVER. THEY SAY THERE ARE ENOUGH FEDERAL GUN LAWS RIGHT NOW. ENFORCE THEM. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE TO YOU?
IT'S IMPORTANT TO ENFORCE EXISTING LAWS, BUT THE BACKGROUND CHECK ISN'T WORKING WELL. IT MAKES SENSE TO DO WHAT WE DID PASSED THE FIX MIX BILL, ALONG THE PATH OF KEEPING GUNS OUT OF THE HANDS OF THOSE DANGEROUS AND PROTECTING THE SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHT OF LAWFUL GUN OWNERS ALL ACROSS ARIZONA AND THE COUNTRY.
TED SIMONS: I HAVE TO ASK YOU. THERE IS TALK THAT NANCY PELOSI MAY BE TOXIC TO THE DEMOCRATIC CALL PAIN. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HER AS A LEADER? DO YOU THINK THERE IS SOMEONE ELSE TO BE LEADING THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: WELL TED MY RECORD IS PRETTY CLEAR ON THIS. I HAVEN'T VOTED FOR NANCY PELOSI IN THE LAST THREE LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS. WHILE I RESPECT HER AS AN INDIVIDUAL I THINK IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE. I HAVE BEEN SAYING THAT FOR MANY YEARS.
TED SIMONS: WHY DO YOU THINK IT'S TIME FOR A CHANGE?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: I THINK WE SHOULD ELECT PEOPLE TO REPRESENT ORDINARY, EVERYDAY PEOPLE. IT WOULD BE BEST TO HAVE FOLKS WHO REPRESENT AVERAGE AMERICANS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE COUNTRY. WE NEED FOLKS WITH NEW BLOOD AND ARE WILLING ACCEPT IDEAS OUTSIDE OF WHAT IS JUST IN THEIR COMMUNITY. HERE IN ARIZONA, WE HAVE A DIFFERENT SET OF VALUES THAT FOLKS MIGHT HAVE IN URBAN SAN FRANCISCO. SO HAVING LEADERSHIP THAT REFLECT THE VALUES OF THOSE OF US WHO DO REFLECT EVERYDAY PEOPLE IS VERY IMPORTANT.
TED SIMONS: LAST QUESTION BEFORE WE LET YOU GO, IMMIGRATION REFORM, COMPREHENSIVE OR OTHERWISE, IS SOMETHING GOING TO HAPPEN?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: I THINK IT'S UNLIKELY THAT ANYTHING HAPPENS THIS YEAR. I'LL TELL YOU WHY. WE HAVE THE VOTES ON THE FLOOR RIGHT NOW TO PASS REASONABLE LEGISLATION, LIKE A BILL WE INTRODUCED, THE USA ACT, FUNDING FOR BORDER SECURITY, NOT A LAW, BUT DRONES, CAMERAS ETC., AND PROVIDE A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP FOR DREAMERS. WHICH WE KNOW IS SO IMPORTANT TO ARIZONA’S ECONOMY. WE CAN'T GET OUR SPEAKER TO PUT THE BILL ON THE FLOOR.
TED SIMONS: THE PRESIDENT YOU COULD HAVE HAD THE DREAMERS ADDRESSED HAD YOU JUST DEALT WITH HIM AND REPUBLICANS AND PUT MORE MONEY INTO THE WALL. WHY WASN'T THAT GOOD ENOUGH?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: WELL ACTUALLY THE OMNIBUS PACKAGE THAT WAS PAST LAST WEEK DID HAVE FUNDING FOR A BORDER WALL.
TED SIMONS: MORE FUNDING. THE KIND OF FUNDING THAT THE PRESIDENT WANTS.
KYRSTEN SINEMA: I'M FISCALLY CONSERVATIVE. I THINK WE SHOULD PUT DOLLARS WHERE THEY'LL MAKE A DIFFERENCE, DRONES, CAMERAS AND BOOTS ON THE GROUND. THAT'S HOW WE STOP THE BAD GUYS RUNNING DRUGS, AND GUNS ACROSS THE BORDER. WE KNOW BUILDING A HIGHER WALL WON'T STOP THE IMMIGRATION PROBLEM.
TED SIMONS: SO WHEN THE PRESIDENT BLAMES DEMOCRATS FOR NOT GETTING ANYTHING DONE FOR DA-CA RECIEPTENTS, YOU SAY?
KYRSTEN SINEMA: THERE IS PLENTY OF BLAME TO GO AROUND. WHAT WE SEE IN WASHINGTON IS PEOPLE BLAMING 'OTHER, BUT WE DON'T SEE PEOPLE SITTING AT THE TABLE TO GET THINGS DONE. WHAT I SAY TO THOSE FOLKS IS SCOOT OVER AND LET THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM SOLVE THE PROBLEMS. WE KNOW WHAT TO DO.
Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema elaborates on the Prop 123 fix, the importance of the Mueller investigation and the intense courage of students participating in marches for stricter gun laws.
Prop 123 was voted in by the people in 2016 to allow money to be taken out of the state trust fund and use it to fund education. Now there are questions of legality having to do with whether Congressional approval should have been required.
Sinema worked with Sen. John McCain to get the proposition passed. She says they spent months working with Gov. Doug Ducey to make sure “the will of the voters was honored.”
“We expect upon further review the judge, or if needed an appellate court, will agree with our interpretation that the Congress enabling act covers the entire intent of the Prop 123,” Sinema says.
The congresswoman explains that since the entire $3.5 billion in the trust fund isn’t being used, the proposition isn’t crossing any legal bounds. If the judge were to disagree with the interpretation, the state would be expected to put $344 million back into the fund.
In order to get it passed, Sinema says that she and McCain touched the four corners of Congress. McCain wrote a letter to Republicans in Congress while Sinema reached out to both sides of the House and Democratic colleagues in the Senate.
The Mueller probe continues to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 elections, including any ties between President Donald Trump and the Russian government. There has been a significant amount of push back from Republicans to stop the investigation. As Sinema says, however, there are Republicans who are standing up for what what Special Counsel Robert Mueller is doing.
“I think it’s very important that the Mueller investigation continues. Anytime there’s a prosecutorial function, it’s the job of both Congress and the executive to leave that alone and allow it to continue,” Sinema says. “That’s how you know that you’re finding the truth, and it also ensures that you’re honoring the integrity that our forefathers intended when they created this system of checks and balances.”
Student marches and gun safety laws
“I have tremendous respect for the young people who are organizing this in this way,” Sinema says. “I’m inspired by them… I think it takes a lot of courage for these kids – teenagers – not just standing up for what they believe in but organizing and mobilizing from all around the country.”
The congresswoman says that whether or not Congress does anything about their demands is still yet to be seen. Since campaign season is just over the horizon, things in the political sphere are going to become even more hectic. Congress isn’t doing nothing though, Sinema says.
“Congress has taken some recent action that’s a start down the road of what should be done,” Sinema says. “In the major omnibus bill that passed just recently, along with our Prop 123 fix, there’s a bill that I’m particularly proud of called the Stop Act. This was legislation that appropriates new dollars for mental health professionals in schools.”
As a former school social worker, Sinema says that one of the first things we can expect to change is the rules surrounding background checks. The FixNICS bill was recently passed with bipartisan support, addressing some of the gaps within the background check system. It will work to stop domestic abusers, violent felons and people who are dangerously mentally ill from getting their hands on weapons.
Sinema will be running for Senate in the upcoming election to take the place of Sen. Jeff Flake.