Protesters gather outside of Sen. Sinema's Phoenix office after missing Capitol riot commission vote

A group of Arizonans are calling out Senator Kyrsten Sinema for not showing up for an important vote on Capitol Hill.

Protesters gathered outside of Sinema's office in Phoenix on May 30 after she did not cast a vote for creating a bipartisan 9/11-style commission to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"I'm very disappointed," said Sharli Schaitberger, one protester. "She's been missing in action."

Last week, Senator Sinema released a statement urging her Republican colleagues to pass the legislation.

The measure fell short of the 60 votes it needed to overcome the Republican filibuster.

"I’m very surprised," said Schaitberger. "I’m very disappointed. I’m very surprised. I really believed that she would be a Democrat. I knew she would be moderate or even a little right-leaning, but I didn’t think that she would just abandon us."

The Senate vote was 54-35 — short of the 60 votes needed to consider the bill that would have formed a 10-member commission evenly split between the two parties. Lawmakers held the procedural vote Friday morning after delays on an unrelated bill to boost scientific research and development pushed back the schedule.

The six Republican senators who voted to advance the bill were Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska. Eleven senators — nine Republicans and two Democrats — missed the vote, an unusually high number of absentees for one of the highest-profile votes of the year. Some said they had scheduling conflicts.

The Republican opposition to the bipartisan commission has also revived Democratic pressure to do away with the filibuster, a time-honored Senate tradition that requires a vote by 60 of the 100 senators to cut off debate and advance a bill. 

Sinema and Democratic senator Joe Manchin have said that they want to keep the filibuster in place.

With the Senate evenly split 50-50, Democrats need the support of 10 Republicans to move to the commission bill, sparking fresh debate over whether the time has come to change the rules and lower the threshold to 51 votes to take up the legislation.

"The failed vote in the Senate had 6 brave Republicans, but that was four short of the 10 necessary to advance the legislation" Manchin said. "Choosing to put politics and political election above the health of our democracy is unconscionable, and the betrayal of the oath that we each take is something that we'll have to live with."

The Arizona senator angered many Democrats in March when she gave a thumbs down while voting against raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of the COVID-19 relief bill.

Last month, she posted an image online flashing a ring with profanity on it, also upsetting her constituents. As a result, a San Francisco company said it would donate all profits from the sales of the ring through the end of April to a group that advocates raising the federal minimum wage.

"We campaigned door to door for her, but I won't do it again," said one protester.

Sinema told the press on June 1 that her absence was due to a personal family matter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Continuing coverage of the Capitol riot: