More than the coronavirus, more than the parallel recession, Senator Kyrsten Sinema sees a cooperative and functional government as the biggest task of Congress in the New Year.

Sinema, D-Arizona, spoke at length Thursday to The Arizona Republic about what could be in the virus relief bill emerging from negotiations on Capitol Hill, and his continued wish that Gov. Doug Ducey help strengthen the respect for science-based restrictions during the pandemic.

But, when asked about the biggest challenge lawmakers face in 2021, Sinema said it was the need to return to more civil politics.

“I think the biggest problem … is less a real problem than a question of process: will Congress start functioning again?” she said before the change of administration from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden.

The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will decline in January, and Republicans could still lose their Senate majority after the second round of elections in Georgia next month.

“We have, unfortunately, been sidelined by intense partisanship – and I don’t blame a single party for that – and a rigidity and resistance to finding compromise and common ground. I think it there are members of both political parties to blame for this. “

Trump will step down as the third president to be impeached and with a pair of extended government shutdowns that reflect deep partisan divisions in Washington.

Sinema adopted the label of “happy warrior” attached to her in the past and said her hopes for a better atmosphere were also tempered by reality.

“I think this challenge is actually quite difficult and is getting more and more so by the influence of the disinformation and disinformation that is happening in our community,” she said. “But I also believe that we can overcome it.… I am optimistic, but I am not naive.”

If there is a change in Washington, Sinema said, it will only happen with compromise and sacrifice, qualities often lacking in recent years.

Sinema said virus relief legislation still being negotiated will help the Arizonans on several fronts.

The package will likely include direct payments to “middle-income and working-class” taxpayers of around $ 600 per person. This would be about half the level of the first payments. It could also include an additional $ 300 in weekly unemployment assistance available for about three months.

“These are not numbers that can be brought to the bank, so to speak,” she said of the ongoing deal. “They are still fluid.”

She said she hoped the negotiations would include more money for small businesses, known as the paycheck protection program. This could include a provision of his, with Sen. Kevin Cramer, RN.D., to facilitate the cancellation of loans to businesses that have received $ 150,000 or less from the program.

“The PPP is a real lifeline for small businesses that got a PPP in the spring, used that money to alleviate some of their losses or to stay afloat, and are looking for additional relief,” she said. .

The virus aid deal will likely include provisions for rent relief, an extension of a multi-month eviction moratorium and a hiatus in student loans, she said. The deal could be finalized by Thursday night, voted on in the House on Friday and in the Senate on Saturday, she said, adding that it remains uncertain.

Sinema reiterated his wish that Ducey “implement a statewide mask policy supported by the application.”

Biden said he plans to seek a federal mask warrant for his first 100 days in office. This would not start until January, however.

“We know this will increase the level of compliance,” she said. “Studies show that wearing a mask successfully slows the spread of transmission. And a recent study (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in Arizona showed cases decreased by 75% when mask-wearing was implemented by local cities and counties after the governor chose not to. to do.”

Sinema is in favor of closing some indoor public spaces, such as indoor bars and gymnasiums, and limiting the number of people allowed to congregate in other places. Sinema again called on Ducey to distribute more federal funds to small towns in Arizona, as Congress had planned.

Contact reporter Ronald J. Hansen at [email protected] or 602-444-4493. Follow him on twitter @ronaldjhansen.

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