Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is defending her dramatic “thumbs-down” vote on her party’s bid to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, with a spokesperson of her office dismissing criticism over the gesture as sexist.
Sinema sparked social media backlash for the manner in which she joined Senate Republicans and a handful of her Democratic colleagues in voting against the addition of a proposal to boost the federal minimum wage to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion spending bill. In video footage that has since gone viral, Sinema is seen standing on the House floor, offering a “thumbs down” when her name was called to vote.
“No one should ever be this happy to vote against uplifting people out of poverty,” wrote Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a progressive who has advocated for the minimum wage hike.
When asked for comment about Sinema’s seemingly enthusiastic mannerism, which was interpreted by some as belittling those who are in favor of a $15 minimum wage, Sinema’s spokesperson Hannay Hurley told the Huffington Post that such inquiry is sexist in nature.
“Commentary about a female senator’s body language, clothing, or physical demeanor does not belong in a serious media outlet,” Hurley said, according to the Post.
Hurley later repeated her statement to the Post on Twitter, adding, “I stand by what I said.”
In her own statement explaining her decision, Sinema said she and other senators would have backed the $15 minimum wage if it weren’t a part of the pandemic relief package.
“Senators in both parties have shown support for raising the federal minimum wage, and the Senate should hold an open debate and amendment process on raising the minimum wage, separate from the COVID-focused reconciliation bill,” Sinema said in a statement.
Sinema was joined by six other Democrats and one independent in voting against the measure of raising the minimum wage through the relief package: Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Angus King (I-Maine).
“I understand what it is like to face tough choices while working to meet your family’s most basic needs. I also know the difference better wages can make,” she said. “I will keep working with colleagues in both parties to ensure Americans can access good-paying jobs, quality education, and skills training to build more economically secure lives for themselves and their families.”