The following is the transcript of an interview with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Independent of Arizona, that aired on “Face the Nation” on May 7, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thanks to all of you for coming out today, and thank you to the Institute as well. I’m excited to talk here with Senator Sinema today. But I do just want to say on behalf of all my CBS colleagues, that it’s so great to be at a forum that celebrates so much of what Senator McCain stood for, which is straight talk. We do that on Face the Nation every Sunday and we looked at the records, and in the 69 year history, John McCain had the top number of appearances on the broadcast 112 times. So- 

SENATOR KYRSTEN SINEMA: I’m gonna break one.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we are hoping this won’t be your last time, Senator. So- 

SEN. SINEMA: I don’t know that I can hit 112.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I’m so glad to get to talk to you here today. 

SEN. SINEMA: It’s great to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to talk big picture off the bat. You know, John McCain, he often voted with his heart, but he took stands, and when he did, he came out and explained why. Often, on Face the Nation or other programs. But right now we are seeing across the country, this declining confidence in institutions, whether it’s Congress, whether it’s business leaders, medical leaders, journalists, how do you fix it?

SEN. SINEMA: That’s an important question. You know, and I think about the speech that John gave on his very last floor opportunity in the United States Senate. This is in 2018. And the last floor speech that Senator McCain gave, he talked about the concern he had with the partisanship at every cost mentality that had taken over Congress and much of our political system. And I remember, I remember in that speech, he said that folks were more interested in ensuring that the other party lost or prevented the other party from getting a win. And then they were no longer focused on the much more inspiring and more meaningful work of bringing people together, people of good faith to actually solve problems and improve lives of the people that we serve in our country. Now, not a lot of people talk about that last speech that John gave, but John gave that speech as his last floor speech on purpose. And it’s because in his decades of service, as you mentioned, he was a man of strong opinions, often voted with his party but was unafraid to stand alone and break with his party when he thought he was doing something right. But he always did it with dignity and honor and respect of others. And in that last speech, in 2018, he spoke about the importance of getting rid of the uninspiring activities you see now of partisanship and restoring the inspiring activity of working together. So how do we fix this in our country? I think that it’s not really that difficult. It’s all of us choosing to behave with that same level of dignity, of respect for each other of honor, refusing to do that uninspiring activity of just trying to prevent the other from a win, and instead focusing on what can we do to bring our country together and demonstrate that we’re serving them. And, Margaret, I- I would suggest that what I tried to do in the United States Senate right is to show that we have differences, differences, which should be celebrated. That’s an important part of a democracy. But those differences shouldn’t stop us from getting things done, that we actually can come together. So when we demonstrate an ability to work together, to solve problems, to make a difference in people’s lives, what we’re actually doing is restoring that faith in institutions and government and helping America see that actually, government can get it done, we can solve those problems, but it takes all of us doing that. So one of the challenges- it takes time, but it also takes a dedication, a willingness to not hit back when someone attacks you or says something that’s untrue or unkind. It takes a willingness to rise above and not engage in the petty and the small. And it takes a willingness to be that example to those around you in your personal life, your work life and your political life, of demonstrating those values that John spoke about so eloquently in his last speech.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It took us decades to get here-

SEN. SINEMA: It did.

MARGARET BRENNAN: that working away at faith in institutions. It’s going to take time to get back. I want to zero in on something specific here. In a poll conducted for this forum, only half, 50% of young Arizonans believe the midterm elections were legitimate. Republicans more than Democrats feel that way. I mean, this is a state with a lot of high profile election deniers, not the only one, but very high profile ones. On this specific part of the democratic process. Why do you think it is so significant? I mean, 50% of young Arizonans doubt their own voting process.

SEN. SINEMA:  Well, we’re currently living in a climate where it’s okay to say things that aren’t true. Which is crazy, right? Like growing up, in my household the way I was raised, and I know we all come by our own opinions of who you are honestly. But in the family that I was raised in, one thing you could never ever do was say something that was untrue ever, because once you did that, no one would trust you. And that was something I was- I was taught growing up. My family took it very seriously. But what I think we’re facing in our country today is this situation where people don’t know what’s true and what’s not true. People aren’t sure what’s fact and what’s fiction. And part of that, frankly, is because much of the media that we consume, isn’t actual news. It’s opinion. 

MARGARET BRENNAN:  It’s not journalism. 

SEN. SINEMA: That’s right. And so when people are confusing opinion or media with news or journalism, then the lines get very blurry. And when folks are getting their information from a source that they trust, but it’s not a source of factual or verifiable information, then it’s easy to see how someone could believe something that is not factually accurate. It’s up to us, all of us, as Americans, to be willing to do the work to say I’m hearing this information, but is it indeed true? Can I find the facts? What is accurate? Because unfortunately, what’s happening in our public discourse is members of both political parties are twisting stories to create their own narratives, which may or may not be true, and we see it every day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And not even to acknowledge an election result. I mean, that is still apparently an issue in the state of Arizona. 

SEN. SINEMA: It is. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We just heard from the governor.

SEN. SINEMA:  It is. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why? Why is it taking such a hold here, and at such a level? We’re- we’re not just talking about media silos, you’re talking about people who are running for public office.

SEN. SINEMA: Well, one of the unfortunate things that’s happening in Arizona, and we see this in other parts of the country as well, is that the two political parties have gotten more and more extreme. They’ve moved away from that center of working together and finding that common ground and they’re, they’re going towards the fringes because that’s where the money is, and that’s where the attention is, and that’s where the likes on Twitter are, and that’s where you get the clicks and the accolades. And there’s an incentive to continue to say things that are not true and not accurate. And that’s how you get folks running for political office, who are outside of the mainstream. Now, you’re sharing this data, and it’s important data. Something else to think about, though, is that Arizona is one of the states that has the highest level of Independents in the country. We are a state of folks who don’t often march to the drum that is being taught to us, right. So most of us don’t fit neatly in one box or another. And I think the challenge that we have right now in our political discourse, is to make it okay for folks to think on their own. Make it okay to be different than those who are around you. To make it okay to have an opinion that is different than your colleagues or your family or your friends. And instead of saying, you must agree with whatever it is that you were told by your company, or whichever may, you know, whichever political opinion that you are more closely aligned with. Instead, say actually, a diversity of thought is not only important, but it’s integral to the protection of democracy. But in today’s political climate, Margaret, as you see every day, there is less tolerance for difference. There was less willingness for individuals to have their own opinions to make their own decisions. And I think that’s something that we have a duty to do, which is to remind everyone you should think for yourself. It’s okay not to agree a hundred percent with another. It is, in fact, important to our democracy that you’re not doing that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well you, with your own party affiliation challenge the two party system? 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you done with parties entirely? 

SEN. SINEMA: Absolutely. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now that you’re an independent, you’ll never become a Republican?

SEN. SINEMA: No. I mean, I just, I’m laughing because I literally just spent time explaining how broken the two parties are. 



SEN. SINEMA: So you don’t go from one broken party to another. 

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Point taken but you’re talking about trying to function within a system that is built around those two parts. 

SEN. SINEMA: That’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And so you get stuck in that in order to continue to function in our democracy.

SEN. SINEMA:  Well, Margaret, there was certainly attention for folks to try and get me stuck there, but it hasn’t worked. Right. You know, Arizonans know this, that over the last two years, in addition to being unwilling to march along the party line as I was told to do, what I did instead, was forge meaningful bipartisan relationships with folks across the political spectrum and passed incredible legislation that has changed the lives of Arizonans and will continue to do so for years to come. So what I’m- what I’m hoping is that these last two years of work, whether it be the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the marriage- the Respect for Marriage Act, Electoral Reform Count Act. I mean, the list is really long. Each of these pieces of legislation passed with broad bipartisan majorities through the United States Senate. Passed through the House, signed by the president. I hope that that demonstrates to Arizona and to America that our system works better when we put down the partisanship, when we seek to find the common ground. And when we block out that noise of the detractors on the outside, who seek to destroy the opportunity to solve those bipartisan challenges.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Let’s talk about one of those challenges that I know you’re trying to forge some bipartisanship on and that is immigration. In 2007, Senator McCain was on Face The Nation and told my colleague Bob Schieffer about the need for immigration reform and border security. But as he put it, to look at this as a humanitarian issue, ‘these are God’s children’ was something he said. That failed, even though he had President Bush’s support at the time. Now we’re in the midst of the hemisphere’s worst refugee crisis, partisanship is at such a high level. Is it simply a political reality that you can’t get comprehensive reform done? You have to chip away at this piecemeal?

SEN. SINEMA:  So, I- I- guess that I would challenge the way that you asked that question, because it sounds as if you’re saying one is a better option than the other.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No, it’s just one is where we are. In 2007, he couldn’t get that done, even when he had the president’s shoulder behind him. 

SEN. SINEMA:  So I think you’re right in saying that is where we are. And folks in Arizona know that I always like to work in the space that we’re in, and I wanted to seize the opportunities to solve as much of the challenges that we face as we can. Right now, I’m working on an immigration framework with Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and many folks who are here today know that we put out a bipartisan framework back in December, and we ran out of time to pass it before the holidays. You’ll recall we have to do the budget. That’s important, keep the government running. And so we came back in January and immediately hit the ground running. So in early January, Senator Cornyn and I and Senator Tillis brought colleagues, the largest bipartisan Senate colleague group ever, to both Texas and Arizona to see firsthand the absolute crisis that we are facing. It is a humanitarian crisis. And it is a crisis for our border communities who do not have the infrastructure to manage this kind of influx. Then a couple weeks later, Senator Cornyn and I again traveled to Mexico City to meet with President Lopez Obrador to talk about Mexico’s role in this crisis. And then just several weeks ago, I brought members of both the House and the Senate down to the Arizona border again, and in just a couple of weeks, I’m bringing another group of colleagues. So what I’m doing right now with Thom, is what I think is integral to passing any piece of legislation, which is first, come up with a framework that is workable, realistic, and that makes a measurable difference in the lives of the people that you serve. Number two, teach your colleagues about the issue, so they can see firsthand the needs. You know, most of our colleagues have never been to a border. They- they’ve not seen what we experience every single day, and I was born and raised in southern Arizona. The failure of the United States government to secure our border and manage immigration properly has been a crisis my entire life. And I know that everyone else in this room, who’s a native born Arizonan would agree with me. We have been dealing with this our entire lives. And it’s time for us to solve it. So I’m not spending a lot of time worrying about whether we’re doing a huge big bill or a modest bill. I want to solve the crisis that’s in front of us. And I’ll do it with any colleague I can, and as much as I can. And that’s what we’re working on right now. The good news is- is we have a really great coalition with Juan Ciscomani, new member of Congress from Arizona. On our team, we’ve got Henry Cuellar. We’ve got David Valadao, Tony Gonzales, these are all border state guys who understand this issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  But this is to talk about doing something more than what you introduced yesterday.

SEN. SINEMA: Yes, that’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Which what you introduced was a temporary two year authority to expel migrants, but with an exemption for asylum claims because of the immediate Title 42 expiration that’s coming up.

SEN. SINEMA:  That’s a band-aid. That bill is saying, hey, Title 42 goes away on Thursday, and everyone here in Arizona knows we are not prepared. The Biden administration had two years to prepare for this and did not do so. And our state is going to bear the brunt and migrants will be in crisis as soon as next week. It will be a humanitarian crisis because we are not prepared. So the legislation we introduced yesterday is about tiding this over, giving us some time and space for the Biden administration to do their job. And for us legislators to actually create a plan that can get through both the House and the Senate. So Thom and I are continuing to do the larger work, build the coalition, and prepare to move a piece of legislation through both chambers.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  So this is- this is the first step in that sort of piecemeal approach. In the version you put out back in December, it did have a pathway to citizenship–

SEN. SINEMA: That’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For migrants and an extension of border security enhancements. So is that still the goal and can you get Republican votes to go along with you on those provisions? 

SEN. SINEMA: Yes. So the- the framework we put out in December does four things. It enhances border security. It does extend Title 42 elements for some period of time for a transition. It reforms our asylum system, which is severely broken and has been hijacked by the cartels and is being used to smuggle individuals and drugs into our country. It also adjusts the visas that are backlogged in our country so that we can have the workers we need, and it adjusts the status of Dreamers so that they can have a path to citizenship. These four elements together address some of the needs and concerns of people on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s designed to bring people together and get everyone some of what they need in order to get to yes. It also solves some of the key challenges we face in our country around security, migration, and jobs.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  But the votes aren’t there for this replacement, essentially of Title 42, the two year ability to expel migrants without guaranteed asylum hearings.

SEN. SINEMA:  We don’t know that yet. We just introduced the bill yesterday.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Republican Senator Lankford was out criticizing it, saying it doesn’t solve the problem and he has been a partner to you.


SEN. SINEMA: Oh it doesn’t solve the problem. Yeah, no, but I don’t think that’s a criticism. He’s right that it doesn’t solve a problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  You think you can get this passed before next week – before May 11?

SEN. SINEMA: Oh, God, no, Margaret. This is the United States Senate. (laughter)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s what I was saying.

SEN. SINEMA: I don’t think you can get agreement on a restroom break by next Thursday. The United States Senate is functioning at a fairly dysfunctional level right now. And that’s due to the partisanship that is driving both parties. As you and I both know, both parties have benefited for decades by not solving this challenge. 


SEN. SINEMA: They use it to bash each other in elections. And what bothers me about that, Margaret, is that look, they don’t live in a border state. So they don’t know that the mayor of Gila Bend has to put migrants in his car and drive them to Phoenix, because they are released in a town that has no bus stop. They don’t know what it’s like for migrants to sleep outside, in the farms in Yuma because there is nowhere for them to go. This is a crisis for our border communities and for migrants. And so, unfortunately, the parties are thinking about this from a political perspective, rather than a human perspective. So the goal of what we’re doing here and James Lankford is a dear friend of mine and a partner in this effort, (unintelligible)  larger structure. We are working to try and attack the root of the challenge to fix the broken system, so we can have a regularized immigration system and a secure border.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  You also have the date on the calendar of 2024 looming, and getting close to a presidential election cycle always raises the level of complication. Do you really think you can get the kind of deal you’re sketching out here on the cusp of an election?

SEN. SINEMA: Well, you know, Margaret, this isn’t going to surprise you. And when I tell you that I’m really not concerned about the election right now. I’m 100 percent concerned about the challenges–


MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you just said that one of the biggest things that politicians like to manipulate, essentially for political gain.

SEN. SINEMA: It’s my hope that they stop doing that. (laughter) What I tried to do over the last few years, Margaret, is show, through the actions of introducing legislation, building the coalitions, and passing really historic milestones for our country, is to show colleagues on both sides of the aisle that you can still manage your politics and get things done for our country. You can actually work together and people will like it. Americans are hungry for that collaboration and coalition. So I guess I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, Margaret, which is set an example and forge a path forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  But you don’t have a date where you think this needs to get done by? 


MARGARET BRENNAN: You said the administration failed to create a workable plan to process migrants after May 11, Title 42. They would say they’ve got the troop deployment, 1,500, processing centers, a phone app, expansion of legal migration, regulation to bar migrants from asylum if they did not first seek asylum in a third country. Hopefully, the senator’s mic is working now. Do you support any of what the administration has done?

SEN. SINEMA: Well, these steps, which all have been announced in the past week or so, are helpful. These are very helpful. Having 1,500 troops along the U.S.-Mexico border is helpful. It is a border of over 2,000 miles though. So 1,500 troops isn’t gonna get the job done. That’s just the reality.


SEN. SINEMA: We also are very concerned that all this is happening in the week or so before the rollout. Just today, I was on the phone with a sheriff of Cochise County. He has gotten no information from the Department of Homeland Security of the federal government about what the flow is going to look like, about what they can expect for processing in terms of how long it takes to process migrants. He’s got no information. Neither have I about how many buses that will be available to transport migrants. Now he’s gotten the information he does have from me because I call him every few days, but he’s not gotten that information from the Department of Homeland Security. Margaret, what’s unfortunate is that I’m asking for that information and I’m not getting it. And so either, either the administration has that information and they’re choosing not to share it, which is a problem since we’re the ones who are going to deal with the crisis or they don’t have it and that’s even more concerning, because how do you prepare for the inflow of migrants when you don’t know what you’re going to expect? 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that hasn’t been shared with the governor?

SEN. SINEMA: It has not been shared with the governor. I spoke with the governor yesterday. 


SEN. SINEMA: It has not been shared so we do not have this information. There are three nonprofit organizations in Arizona that provide incredible, incredible assistance for our border communities. One is in Yuma. One is in Tucson. One is in Phoenix. They don’t have this information. And they’re the ones who are responsible for accepting the migrants after they’re released from custody. So while it’s wonderful that the administration is announcing things like a 1,500 troop deployment and these new processing centers, which will not be operational by next Friday, those are good things. Those are aspirational. That’s not the same as operational. And so what I’m asking for and have been for two years, is for the administration to make concrete plans.


SEN. SINEMA: Rent the buses. Hire the drivers. Build a soft-sided facility so that we can process individuals. We need more holding capacity. I mean, let’s be realistic here. And that’s what’s not – we’re not prepared for that. And that’s frustrating, Margaret, and the reason why it’s frustrating is because I know that that means that the sheriffs in our southern border are going to be bearing the brunt of it. And our men and women, the Border Patrol will be working even longer shifts. And that the mayor of Sierra Vista who tells me about the high speed chases that occur in his town on a daily basis will get worse, not better.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Have you talked to the White House directly about this?

SEN. SINEMA: Yes, I have.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What’s the response?

SEN. SINEMA: It has not been adequate.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Do you care to elaborate?

SEN. SINEMA: I do not. (laughter)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because what you’re laying out is a level of crisis concern. So–

SEN. SINEMA: Yes, that’s correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: They were trying to call–

SEN. SINEMA: That’s what I have been doing. I’ve been raising the alarm, because–

MARGARET BRENNAN: They return your calls?

SEN. SINEMA: Oh, yes. Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And just not share information?

SEN. SINEMA: Right. That’s correct. This is a problem. We’ve had two years to prepare for this.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Do you think that’s personal?

SEN. SINEMA: No, no, not at all. I don’t think it’s personal. I think that there’s a system in Washington, D.C. that is deeply disconnected from the real lives and experiences of border communities and the migrants who seek to come to this country. And the lack of preparation is not ever personal. In my opinion, nothing’s personal in politics, right? People are doing what they gotta do. We all come by who we are through our own lived experiences. It makes sense that folks in Washington, D.C. don’t really understand what it’s like to be the mayor of Sierra Vista. But what I would like, Margaret, is for them to learn.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about a quote that stood out to me that was in a recent New York Times profile of you.  It quotes you as saying, ‘one of the big problems in negotiations is that often some — not exclusively men, but often men — are so busy talking about what they need, they’re not spending any time hearing what someone else needs. If you give them what they need, you can get what you want.’ So on May 9, five men, including President of the United States and four congressional leaders, are going to meet to discuss the standoff over the debt ceiling. You’ve been listening. What does the deal look like?

SEN. SINEMA: Yeah, I’m glad you’ve asked this question because I’ve been disappointed with the conversations up to date. Both parties are talking without listening to each other. They’re just talking right past each other, right? So President Biden says ‘I want a clean debt limit to meet the full faith and responsibility of the United States of America.’ To be clear, he’s correct. We must meet the full faith and credit responsibility of the United States of America. That is our duty. However, it’s not correct to assume or to pretend that either party is used to or always is willing to pass a debt limit without conditions. Both parties have played this game for years. And Margaret, we haven’t known each other for very long, but if you’ve known me in the past, you would know that every time this comes around, I say to my colleagues ‘it’s playing with fire, guys. We shouldn’t play with the full faith and credit of the United States of America. This is our job, we should do it.’ But both parties do it. And they just up the ante and up the ante and up the ante, and this has been going on for many years. And so we’re in a situation where one party is saying they will not negotiate at all with the other party. I think that’s a very dangerous place to be because one, it’s not realistic. And two, that is not going- it’s just not going to happen. So Kevin McCarthy, as we all saw, took him a long time to become Speaker. Barely squeaked by with the votes, had to make a lot of concessions to get the job and he has a very, very narrow road to walk. So he has to thread a needle where he can get the votes he needs to pass a debt limit increase and continue to be Speaker. Now, there have been sounds coming out from the Republican conference in the House for months. Patrick McHenry, who’s the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee, some of you may remember him. He’s the guy in the little bow tie. He was the one who was corralling the votes. He’s the one who actually helped get those votes over the finish line for Kevin to become Speaker. Patrick has been talking for months about what a deal could look like. People have not been listening. They should be. And so both sides–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well he talked about short term possible lifting of the debt ceiling–

SEN. SINEMA: That was recently. Have you paid attention to what he’s said–


MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. It could be a default.

SEN. SINEMA:  He’s said some other options as well. He’s mentioned a number of options. And I think folks should actually say, let’s hear these options. The reality is the bill that Kevin and his colleagues passed through the House is not going to be the solution. The votes do not exist in the United States Senate to pass that. But what the President is offering is not a realistic solution either. There’s not going to be just a simple clean debt limit. The votes don’t exist for that. So the sooner these two guys get in the room and listen to what the other one needs, the more likely they are to solve this challenge and protect the full faith and credit of the United States of America. We’re on really shaky ground right now. And it’s been a long time that these two gentlemen not talking with each other before they start these conversations.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  And now we have June 1 as the X date, according to the Treasury Secretary. 

SEN. SINEMA: That’s right. That’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So do you think that gives enough time for a broad agreement? If there’s been no talking to date, how do they get it done? 

SEN. SINEMA: They could get it done. 



MARGARET BRENNAN: Well in advance before an actual default? 

SEN. SINEMA:  They could get it done, but it would be a challenge. I think what it would require is both Speaker McCarthy and the president and their respective party machines to kind of drop the facade, you know, like where they’re at right now. And just sit down and talk about brass tacks. What does Kevin need in order to deliver the votes? And what does the president need in order to feel comfortable with the full faith and credit of the United States of America? Get to that point, and then figure out a way to give each man what he needs.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Get past the vote in the Senate that Senator Schumer is planning to have?

SEN. SINEMA: I don’t know. I don’t know what vote he’s planning to have. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you’re talking about the political machine, what do you mean? 

SEN. SINEMA: Well, I mean, there are two political machines happening right now. There’s a whole lot of House Republicans saying, ‘Kevin’s bill or nothing’ and there are a whole lot of Senate Democrats saying, ‘clean bill or nothing’ and neither of those are going to get us to the finish line. And so it’s time to get to the finish line. And the way to get to the finish line is to listen to what the other party needs. Figure out a way to help them get what it is that they need.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Are you weighing in on this at all?

SEN. SINEMA: I have conversations with my colleagues every day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That sounds like a ‘yes.’ Well, back in 2011, it was a senator who helped deliver, you know, coming back from the brink the last time there was the risk of default.

SEN. SINEMA: That’s right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Leader McConnell jumped in. Right now it doesn’t look like he’s jumping in.

SEN. SINEMA: I don’t think he can. 


SEN. SINEMA: Well, I don’t think that a solution that was negotiated by Senator McConnell would carry the kind of weight that is needed with House Republican members. 


SEN. SINEMA: I think- I think Senator McConnell knows that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is why he’s saying talk to the House. Well, they’ll all be in the room on May 9. So we’ll see what happens, but why do you think there’s not the same sense of urgency on the Senate side? If this is truly a hard date on the calendar and some would debate that.

SEN. SINEMA:  That’s right. Well, I think there’s a recognition that the solution must come between Senator- between President Biden and Speaker McCarthy. And the- the lift of votes on the House side is more challenging than the lift of the votes on the Senate side. And you know, that’s a different place than we’ve been in the past, Margaret, right? Like, the last two years, as you saw, the bills that I worked on and that wrote and authored and shepherded through, those all originated in the Senate. But that’s- we had a different balance of votes at that time. So circumstances have changed. What hasn’t changed is the need for folks to be willing to put down the partisan talking points and think about putting the country first, solving the country’s challenge. That is much more important than winning a political point in the media. Much more important.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden acknowledged you as the lead co-author of Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, in the earlier times you were talking about. He called you the most determined woman I know. Leader McConnell said you’re the most effective first term Senator I’ve seen in my time in the Senate. What would you want to get done in the second term?

SEN. SIMENA: Well, the first thing I’d like to do is to save the full faith and credit of the United States of America. I think we all probably share that goal right– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that’s got to be done by June 1.

SEN. SINEMA: That one’s a real short-term one. Immigration, you know, it’s been part of my life’s work. Folks who’ve known me for a long time in Arizona know that I started my career as a social worker. And when I started my career as a social worker, I actually worked in the immigrant refugee community. That was many years ago. So this is- this has been- it has been really important to me my entire life. As a child of a border, you know, region, this is something that my whole life has been concerned with. So that’s really high priority for me. I also think it would be important for us to address the issue of permitting. And this is something that’s bubbling up and starting to take shape right now in both the House and the Senate. We’ve got to address permitting reform, in order to get to a national security future that allows us to be independent of China, and to get to a clean energy future that allows us to operate independently of other rogue nations like Russia and Venezuela.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  This is something Senator Manchin wants, potentially, included in a package to- a solution to the June 1 standoff.

SEN. SINEMA: That might be a little complex for three weeks from now. 


SEN. SINEMA: It could be, but you know, it’s not impossible. We- to put it in context, I want to make a reference to another bill that we did last year. One of the bills I’m most proud of in my career was the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. You remember that was- the Uvalde shooting in Texas happened on a Tuesday morning and by Thursday morning Senator Cornyn, Senator Tillis, Senator Murphy and I were all sitting in my hideaway in the Capitol basement working on a piece of legislation and 28 days later we passed a bill through the United States Senate. Which as you know in Senate times, is I mean, that’s- that’s like an hour. So could it happen in the next couple weeks? Possibly. It’s not impossible, but it’s difficult. So permitting is something that’s really high on my priority list this year, but- but I’ll be honest with you, Margaret, the thing that’s highest on my priority list and folks who know me have been seeing this for some time. It’s demonstrating to Arizonans and the American public that we can restore faith in our government by working together and solving real challenges that impact the lives of the people that we serve. So there are topics of concern for me, immigration, obviously permitting, those are very important. But equally important to me is restoring faith in our institutions, in our governments, and helping Americans see that the system is worth protecting and saving. That it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican or an Independent, in fact, be whatever you want to be. That’s an Arizona way, but- but be invested in this system, believe in it, help it thrive and survive. And that’s what I really hope is running through the work that I’ve done in the Senate these last few years is demonstrating the value of our institutions, restoring that trust and faith in it and showing people that you don’t have to spend your time attacking other people on Twitter. You can spend your time solving problems and doing so is actually worth the effort. That’s- that’s the thing that I probably care about most. Because as a patriot, I want this form of government to last long after you and I leave this stage and leave this earth. I want our kids and our grandkids to have the same confidence in these institutions that you and I were raised with.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So it sounds like you want a second- another term.

SEN. SINEMA: That was a good one. Very good. I like it. That was good. That’s probably the best one yet. I’m not here to talk about politics today. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, everything is politics. 

SEN. SINEMA: I’m not here to talk about elections today. There you go.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Well, this is a key battleground. It will be, certainly, in 2024. Why keep people guessing?

SEN. SINEMA: Well, I want to stay focused on the work that I’m doing. I think you can tell and I hope folks who are here today can tell how much it matters to me to actually make progress, solve challenges, deliver results. That is why I get up and go to work every day. I don’t get up and go to work every day so that people can say, you know, is she running again or not? That’s just not my concern. What I want is to deliver real meaningful results. It’s what I’ve done for 20 years. It’s what I intend to continue doing. And frankly, I think Arizonans are exhausted by this constant election focus of A versus B or red versus blue or good versus evil. And it’s exhausting. I think people want a break. And- and I want to give them that break by demonstrating that the real work can happen independent of focus on election.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  When I asked initially what would you want to get done the second term, you did say immigration reform. 

SEN. SINEMA: That’s right. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are we that far off from it, that we’re looking past 2024?

SEN. SINEMA:  No, I’d like to do it before then. But as we all know, I’m an impatient person. I’d like to get that done now. This is- this is the work I want to do now. And part of the reason is, as I mentioned, this has been important my entire life. Our state has suffered for the last 40 years because of the federal government’s failure to do anything about it. And we’re facing the worst crisis of my life right now with immigration. So I want to do it now. I want to do it as soon as possible. Now, you asked me earlier about a timeline. And the reality is Margaret, I don’t control the timeline. It’s about when and how can I build a coalition that is strong and durable enough that we can pass this legislation through both chambers and get it to the president’s desk?

MARGARET BRENNAN:  You’d need the president’s buy-in on this. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you consider him an ally in this? You work together, and he praised you on- on bipartisan infrastructure, but then you just said you’re not really getting what you need when you ask hard questions about the border.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And you have a working relationship with the White House now as an Independent?

SEN. SINEMA:  Yes, yes, I do. I talked to the White House several times this week. I feel confident that if we are able to get a workable plan that has the support of 60-plus senators in the United States Senate, I feel confident that President Biden would support it. I feel confident.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  We’re coming up on time here. And I know you have a hard deadline. But I do also want to ask what you think is going to be the deciding point. I know you- you don’t- you said you don’t focus on politics, but the deciding point in how people judge success right now. When we look at the polling here in Arizona, it’s the economy, number one. Abortion, number two for young voters that shows up as a reason for concern. Politics are going to determine what is possible in the next election cycle here. What do you think is going to drive that? What do you think is going to be driving the conversation in Washington?

SEN. SINEMA:  I’m not sure what will drive the conversation in Washington. And here’s the reason, Margaret. I think the conversation in Washington is often deeply disconnected from what’s happening with people’s real lives here in Arizona. But what I can tell you is what I think is going to drive people’s decisions in Arizona. Arizonans- look, we- we all come to who we are through our own lived experiences, right? We’re all a little bit different, should be celebrated. But we are who we are because of our own lives, because of our communities, our experiences, how we grew up. And in Arizona, there are a few things that we deeply value. First is freedom. We believe deeply in the freedom that is afforded to us as Americans. Two, we believe in opportunity– that people should get to go and be whoever they want to be. And three, we believe in protecting the security of ourselves and our friends and our neighbors. So those are the three key values that really drive us as Arizonans. So when I think, what will Arizonans be looking for when they’re thinking about who they want to support and what they believe in in the next election? They’ll be looking for folks who are delivering on those key values. So what I hear from folks is this:  government is difficult, the bureaucracy is slow. What Arizonans want is a government that is efficient, that is lean, that makes their life a little bit better and easier, and then gets out of the way so they can live their own life of freedom. That’s what Arizonans are looking for. Now, whether or not that will be reflected in Washington D.C., I can’t tell you, Margaret, because usually what happens in Washington D.C. is disconnected from what we’re thinking about here in Arizona. But what I can promise you is I keep my head and my feet rooted right here in this great state. And so it doesn’t matter to me what folks are talking about in Washington. What matters to me is what folks in Arizona are looking for. And what they’re looking for is someone to solve the problems that government creates in their lives, and then get out of the way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sounds like a reelection campaign, Senator, but we’re not talking about politics today. We are talking today with you about so many things of importance as you will throughout the weekend here at the Forum. Thank you all for having us, CBS. Thank you, Senator for your time. 

SEN. SINEMA: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Appreciate it.