Sinema has worked for the adoption of the DREAM Act and has campaigned against Propositions 107 and 102, two voter referendums to ban the recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions in Arizona.
After her election to the House of Representatives she joined the conservative Blue Dog Coalition and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. She is a centrist on liberal-conservative scales. In September 2014, she was endorsed for re-election by the United States Chamber of Commerce, becoming one of five Democrats to be endorsed by the Chamber in the 2014 congressional election cycle. In 2015 and 2017, she did not vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House and only voted 73% with the majority of her own party.
She is the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. Congress.
Sinema was born in Tucson, Arizona, in 1976. Her parents divorced when she was a child. When her stepfather lost his job, the family lived for two years in an abandoned gas station in Florida with no running water or electricity. Sinema was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Sinema graduated as high school valedictorian at age 16 and went on to earn her B.A. from Brigham Young University in 1995 at age 18. She left the Mormon church after graduating from BYU. Sinema received her Master of Social Work from Arizona State University in 1999. In 2004, she earned a J.D. from Arizona State University College of Law. In 2012, she earned a Ph.D. in Justice Studies, also from Arizona State.
Sinema was a social worker from 1995 to 2002. In 2000, Sinema worked on Ralph Nader's presidential campaign. She also practiced law in the Washington Elementary School District She served as an adjunct Business Law Professor at Arizona Summit Law School, formerly known as Phoenix School of Law. Sinema became a criminal defense lawyer in 2005. Sinema has also been an adjunct instructor in the Arizona State University School of Social Work since 2003.
Sinema first ran for the Arizona House of Representatives in 2002, as an independent affiliated with the Arizona Green Party. She finished in last place in a five candidate field, receiving 8% of the vote.
In 2004, Sinema won the Democratic primary for Arizona's 15th District, where she won the highest margin of votes with 37%. David Lujan also won election with 34% (there are two seats in each District). Sinema was subsequently re-elected three times with over 30% of the vote. In 2009 and 2010, Sinema was an assistant Minority Leader for the Democratic Caucus of the Arizona House of Representatives.
In 2010, Sinema was elected to the Arizona Senate, defeating Republican Bob Thomas 63–37%.
In 2005 and 2006, she was named the Sierra Club's Most Valuable Player. She also won the 2006 Planned Parenthood CHOICE Award, 2006 Legislator of the Year Award from both the Arizona Public Health Association and the National Association of Social Workers, 2006 Legislative Hero Award from the Arizona League of Conservation Voters, and the 2005 Stonewall Democrats' Legislator of the Year Award. In 2010, she was named one of Time Magazine's "40 Under 40".
In 2006, Sinema sponsored a bill urging the adoption of the DREAM Act. Also in 2006 she co-chaired Arizona Together, the statewide campaign that defeated Proposition 107 (which would have banned the recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions in Arizona). Speaking to a magazine in 2006, Sinema was asked about "new feminism", and responded, "'These women who act like staying at home, leeching off their husbands or boyfriends, and just cashing the checks is some sort of feminism because they're choosing to live that life. That's bullshit. I mean, what the fuck are we really talking about here?'" After dealing with criticism, Sinema apologized and said the interview format was intended to be a "light-hearted spoof". “I was raised by a stay-at-home mom,’’ she said. “So, she did a pretty good job with me.’’
In 2008, Sinema led the campaign against Proposition 102, another referendum which would have banned the recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions in Arizona. Proposition 102 was approved with 56% of the vote in the general election on November 4, 2008. Sinema chaired a coalition called Protect Arizona's Freedom, which defeated Ward Connerly's goal to place an initiative on the state ballot that would eliminate equal opportunity programs.
In 2010, she sponsored a bill to give in-state tuition to veterans. The Center for Inquiry presented Sinema its Award for the Advancement of Science and Reason in Public Policy in 2011.
In June 2011, Sinema said she was considering running for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. She lived in the same Phoenix neighborhood as incumbent Democratic congressman Ed Pastor, but was adamant that she would not challenge another Democrat in a primary. On January 3, 2012, Sinema announced her bid for Congress, in the 9th congressional district. The district had previously been the 5th, represented by freshman Republican David Schweikert; it contains 60 percent of the old 5th's territory. Schweikert had been drawn into the 6th District—the old 3rd District—and sought reelection there.
Although Sinema was not required to resign her state senate seat under Arizona's resign-to-run laws (since she was in the final year of her term), she did so on the same day that she announced her candidacy. On August 28, 2012, Sinema won the three-way Democratic primary with nearly 42% of the vote. Her opponents, state Senator David Schapira and former Arizona Democratic Party chairman Andrei Cherny, a former speechwriter in the Clinton administration, each finished with less than 30% of the vote.
In the general election Sinema ran against Republican nominee Vernon Parker, the former Mayor of Paradise Valley. Sinema was endorsed by the Arizona Republic. The campaign was described as a "nasty", "bitterly fought race that featured millions of dollars in attack ads". Parker ran campaign ads that accused Sinema of being an "anti-American hippie" who practiced "Pagan rituals". The Republican-aligned outside group American Future Fund spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on attack ads against Sinema. When Sinema's religious views were raised as an issue, her campaign stated that she simply believes in a secular approach to government.
The November 6 election was initially too close to call, because Arizona election authorities failed to count more than 25% of the votes on election day. Sinema held a narrow lead over Parker, while provisional and absentee ballots were still being counted. However, on November 12, when it was apparent that Sinema's lead was too large for Parker to overcome, the Associated Press called the race for Sinema. Once all ballots were counted, Sinema won by 4.1 percentage points, over 10,000 votes. Libertarian Powell Gammill finished third with 6.64% of the votes. When she took office on January 3, 2013, she became only the second Anglo Democrat to represent the Valley of the Sun in over three decades. The first, Harry Mitchell, represented the seat Sinema now holds from 2007 to 2011.
Sinema ran for reelection in 2014, and was unopposed in the Democratic primary, which took place on August 26, 2014. She faced Republican Wendy Rogers in the general election.
According to Roll Call, Sinema billed herself as bipartisan. This is seen as a response to her district's voting pattern. It was drawn as a "fair-fight" district, and voted for President Obama by just 4 points in 2012. In September 2014, she was endorsed for re-election by the United States Chamber of Commerce, becoming one of five Democrats to be endorsed by the Chamber in the 2014 congressional election cycle. She was reelected with 54 percent of the vote.
Unopposed in her primary, Sinema won the general election by almost 22% of the vote.
According to National Journal's 2013 Vote Ratings, Sinema's votes place her near the center of their liberal-conservative scale. In early 2014, Sinema joined the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats who work with moderate Republicans to craft bipartisan policy. On February 16, 2013, she announced she was part of an emerging effort, called the United Solutions Caucus, to end partisan gridlock in Congress. This group of 32 freshman Republicans and Democrats was formed with the stated principles of strengthening and preserving Social Security and Medicare, promoting economic growth to generate revenue, cutting spending, and pursuing Medicaid waste, fraud, and abuse. Sinema was ranked as the 4th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the 114th United States Congress, and the most bipartisan Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy that ranks members of the United States Congress by their degree of bipartisanship (by measuring the frequency each member's bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party and each member's co-sponsorship of bills by members of the opposite party).
Sinema voted to change the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's leadership from a single director to a bipartisan commission.
In June 2013, Sinema became one of 29 original cosponsors of the bipartisan LIBERT-E (Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email) Act, along with Rep. Justin Amash. The legislation would limit the National Security Agency (NSA) to only collecting electronic information from subjects of an investigation.
In July 2013, Sinema joined a bipartisan majority and voted against an amendment to a defense appropriations bill (offered by Amash) to prohibit the NSA from monitoring and recording details of U.S. citizens' telecommunications without a warrant. In August 2013 (after an internal May 2012 audit brought to public light by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA "broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year" since 2008), Sinema explained her vote against the amendment: "I, along with my colleagues in the House, was given assurances by the intelligence community that abuses did not occur intentionally or regularly, were quickly resolved, and were fully reported. I voted against the well-intentioned but overly broad Amash amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act in part because of these assurances, and due to my belief that we must strike a thoughtful balance that protects both our constitutional liberties and our security."
Sinema voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act. Sinema has called for reforms to the law. She has said that the health care law isn't perfect, and that in Congress she will work to amend the law to make it work effectively.
Sinema has voted to delay the initiation of fines on those who don’t purchase insurance in 2014. She has also voted to repeal the Medical Device Tax and for the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013.
Speaking about healthcare policy, Sinema said, "I used to say that I wanted universal health-care coverage in Arizona, which went over like a ton of bricks. Turns out, Arizonans hear the word 'universal' and think 'socialism'—or 'pinko commie.' But when I say that I want all Arizonans to have access to affordable, quality health care, Arizonans agree wholeheartedly. Same basic idea, different language."
After the September 11 attacks on the United States, Sinema was involved in organizing a Phoenix-area group called the Arizona Alliance for Peaceful Justice (AAPJ). According to The Hill, "The group’s mission statement at the time called military action 'an inappropriate response to terrorism' and advocated for using the legal system — not violence — to bring Osama bin Laden and others to justice." Sinema wrote: "As one of the core organizers against the war from day one (September 12, 2011), I have always and will always continue to oppose war in all its forms."
Sinema has advocated against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and has helped form several groups that oppose the U.S.-Israel alliance. The AAPJ, which Sinema co-founded, has denounced Israel’s “disproportionate” use of “violence and oppression,” decried U.S. military aid to Israel, and protested the expansion of Israeli settlements “into Palestinian lands.” Sinema's activism and views regarding Israel have been criticized by Republicans and Democrats, including Jay Goodlik, a former Special Assistant to Bill Clinton. Sinema is a former spokesperson for Women in Black, an anti-war group that was founded in part to support Palestinians during the Intifada. She supports reducing defense spending.
Sinema generally favors higher income taxation of the wealthy over cutting services. She has voted in support of federal stimulus spending. She has said: "Raising taxes is more economically sound than cutting vital social services."
In 2015, however, Sinema was one of just seven House Democrats to vote in favor of a Republican-backed bill to repeal the estate tax, which affects about 0.2% of deaths in the U.S. each year (estates of $5.43 million or more for individuals, or $10.86 million or more for couples).
In 2016, with Republican congressman John Katko of New York, Sinema cosponsored the Working Parents Flexibility Act (H.R. 4699). This legislation would establish a tax-free "parental savings account" in which employers and parents could invest savings tax-free, with unused funds eligible to be "rolled into qualifying retirement, college savings or ABLE accounts for people with disabilities without tax penalties."
Sinema supports abortion rights. She has been endorsed by EMILY's List.
Sinema favors gun control measures such as requiring background checks on gun sales between private citizens at gun shows, and requiring a license for gun possession.
In 2016, Sinema was one of just five House Democrats to vote for a Republican-backed bill barring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from regulating broadband rates. Sinema's vote broke from her party; other Democrats were strongly opposed to the measure, and President Obama said he would veto it if it passed.
Sinema opposed Arizona SB 1070. Sinema argues that mass deportation of illegal immigrants is not an option and supported the DREAM Act. Sinema believes that "we need to create a tough but fair path to citizenship for undocumented workers that requires them to get right with the law by paying back taxes, paying a fine and learning English as a condition of gaining citizenship."
Sinema voted for the SAFE Act, which expanded the refugee screening process to require signatures from the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Director of National Intelligence for each refugee entering the country.Committee on Financial Services
Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities and Investment
Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance
On November 17, 2013, Sinema completed an Ironman Triathlon in a little more than 15 hours. According to Politico, Sinema was the second active member of Congress—behind Senator Jeff Merkley—to finish an Ironman; although several sources, such as Triathlete Magazine, consider Sinema the first, since Merkley completed a non-Ironman-branded race. On December 25, 2013, Sinema summited Mount Kilimanjaro.
Sinema is now the only openly non-theist or atheist member of Congress, although she herself has dissociated from such labels.