Freshman Sen. Kyrsten Sinema , named Wednesday as ranking member of a key regulatory panel, drew immediate comparisons to her predecessor for crossing party lines to support overhaul legislation.
Sinema (D-Ariz.) will be paired with James Lankford (R-Okla.), the long-time chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management. Lankford often co-sponsored bills with Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), the previous ranking member of the subcommittee.
“Cutting red tape in Washington helps businesses across Arizona thrive,” said Sinema in a statement. “I look forward to working with Chairman Lankford as we identify commonsense reforms that help grow our economy and create jobs.”
Both Heitkamp and Sinema supported the Regulatory Accountability Act, a bill that Republicans say would bring greater analysis and transparency to the most expensive federal rules by requiring more public input before they are issued.
In the recently ended 115th Congress, Sinema was one of only a handful of Democrats who voted in favor of a trio of Republican-sponsored regulatory bills, H.R. 1004, H.R. 998 and H.R. 21.
During the 114th Congress, Sinema voted with just eight Democrats and all Republicans to pass the Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. 185). Yet Sinema voted against a large package (H.R. 5) of regulatory bills in January 2017 that was named the Regulatory Accountability Act, but also included other measures.
“Sen. Sinema consistently supported manufacturers on good government and regulatory reform measures during her time in the House, and we really look forward to working with her in her new capacity,” said Patrick Hedren, vice president of labor, legal, and regulatory policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.
Reaction to Sinema’s appointment was generally divided, with liberal-leaning public interest groups expressing concern and conservative-leaning regulatory think tanks expressing optimism.
“It is disappointing that someone with this kind of track record now has a front row seat in the ongoing fights over whether our regulatory system will work to protect ordinary Americans or the corporate interests that profit off of harming them,” said James Goodwin, senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform.
Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen, said he hoped to work with Lankford and Sinema on robust oversight of the Trump administration’s rollback of regulatory protections.
It will be interesting to see if Sinema continues to support substantive legislation like the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act that she voted for during her time in the House, said Dan Bosch, director of regulatory policy at the American Action Forum.
“Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope this is an issue where Republicans and Democrats can actually work together in the Senate,” Bosch said.