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U.S. Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema explains her priorities in office and her desire to always put Arizona first.
Diana Payan, The Republic | azcentral.com

Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally were formally sworn in to the U.S. Senate on Thursday, reshaping Arizona’s Capitol Hill contingent and helping define a day in Washington in which a record number of women joined Congress.

Sinema, a Democrat, and McSally, a Republican, were sworn in along with other new members of the Senate, meaning they technically joined the chamber at the same time.

Gov. Doug Ducey made clear when he appointed McSally to replace the retiring U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl that Sinema’s November victory made her the state’s senior senator, a designation that carries historic significance.

For her part, Sinema downplayed such distinctions and suggested she wants to move ahead with the business of the Senate.

MORE: New senators herald a new political era for Arizona

“It’s exactly what I expected it to be, but to be honest I had help. (Outgoing Sens. Jon Kyl and Jeff Flake) told me about it. They gave me a preview,” Sinema said of becoming a senator. “I haven’t really spent a lot of time thinking about being the first of anything. I really just spent my time focusing on trying to be the best senator I can be.

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“I want to get up each day and work, just like I did in the House, but now for the whole state, and just keep my focus on what matters to everyday Arizonans. That’s really where my head has been.”

The Arizona Republic‘s efforts to reach to McSally for comment were not successful.

Asked whether she had spoken with McSally since Ducey appointed her to the Senate after their bruising campaign, Sinema maintained a coolness toward her new Arizona colleague in the upper chamber.

“We have not” spoken in depth since the appointment, Sinema said. “I’m sure that time will come.”

“One thing I can say is I’m very proud of the way that I ran our campaign for the United States Senate,” Sinema said. “The focus that we had on our campaign was 100 percent what’s most important for everyday Arizonans. I feel very good about that. 

“I also, as everyone knows, have a reputation for being willing to work with literally anyone to get stuff done, and that’s something that will never change about me.”

Among the issues at the fore of the new Congress is a partial federal government shutdown that is nearly two weeks old and was brought on because of President Donald Trump’s insistence on funding for a border wall.

“I always oppose government shutdowns. I do not think there’s ever a time when it’s appropriate to shut down the government over any demand,” Sinema said.

A year ago, she joined with other Democrats, and some Republicans, to oppose a spending plan that would have averted a shutdown that lasted two days and largely revolved around the legal treatment of “dreamers,” those who were brought to the country illegally as children.

“I believe that the leaders of both political parties should behave like grownups and sit down and negotiate and work out agreements because that is our job,” she said.

However, when the then-Republican-controlled House last month passed a measure that would have kept the federal government fully open with $5 billion for the border wall demanded by President Donald Trump, Sinema did not cast a vote either way. McSally voted for the legislation.

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Sinema told The Republic she didn’t set “red lines” on border security and has supported increased spending on physical barriers — including a wall — but also more for technology, such as cameras and drones, as well as more customs agents. 

Sinema and McSally join Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., to give the Senate 25 women overall as the 116th Congress begins. That is a record high.

The women from Arizona and Blackburn also mean 32 states have now had women in the Senate at some point. 

Women also set a record in the U.S. House of Representatives, with 42 new female members. Of that number, 38 are Democrats. Overall, 102 of the 435 House members are women. 

Arizona has two women among that group: Debbie Lesko, a Republican beginning her first full term in the West Valley-based 8th Congressional District, and Ann Kirkpatrick, a Democrat beginning her fourth term but first in the Tucson-based 2nd Congressional District.

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