Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema tried out as an intern at a Sonoma County winery

Winemaking does not seem to be confused with policy making. But perhaps the former can offer the latter some well-deserved respite.

Last summer, Three Sticks Winery in Sonoma had an unexpected name among its paid student interns. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, served a two-week internship at the start of the annual harvest.

Three Sticks winemaker Ryan Prichard said Sinema does everything the other interns do: sampling grapes, sorting fruit, cleaning equipment, preparing the wine cellar to receive the newly picked grapes.

For her manual labor, Sinema was paid the base intern rate of $1,117.40, Prichard confirmed.

His work in the basement only surfaced publicly in May, when Business Insider reported on a federal financial disclosure by Sinema, who is paid $174,000 a year as a senator, exposing the paid internship. A spokesperson for the senator told the insider that the Senate Ethics Committee pre-approved the intern work in the basement.

Messages I left at Sinema’s offices in Washington and Phoenix asking why she was looking for the summer job at the Sonoma winery were not returned.

Let me digress quickly to make sure everyone knows about Sinema and why she rose to national prominence as a junior senator. Sinema, who was elected to Congress in 2018, has made a name for herself for her staunch bipartisanship and her reluctance to abandon the filibuster, a maneuver that would allow her Democratic party to pave the way in the Senate to pass the central policies of President Joe Biden. fervent Republican opposition.

Bipartisanship, that longstanding hallmark of the Senate, has become nearly impossible to achieve since Biden took office in January, after defeating President Donald Trump, a Republican.

The 100-member Senate is evenly split between Republicans and the Democratic caucus, which includes two independents. For Democrats to pass the most critical bills, such as nationwide voting rights legislation aimed at limiting voting restrictions championed by Republicans, they will almost certainly have to try to throw out the filibuster. The parliamentary procedure tactic allows a senator to delay or prevent debate or votes on a specific bill unless 60 senators vote to end debate.

Filibuster is a powerful legislative device, but it is not part of the Constitution. It came into existence in 1806 due to a change in Senate rules and was first used in 1837.

Sinema and a colleague in the Senate, Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, defined their positions. They will not abandon bipartisanship or the filibuster. With critical suffrage, infrastructure and immigration legislation in sight, the odd political pair have faced widespread criticism within their own party for a continued commitment to working with Republicans — no matter if this jeopardizes the adoption of these policies.

Many Democrats have taken on the franchise issue in particular, suggesting that if Republican-backed voting restrictions are maintained, that party will take over both houses of Congress for years to come. They also point out that Democrats and Republicans have already weakened the filibuster, with Democrats rejecting it for most judicial nominations and Republicans ending it for Trump’s Supreme Court nominees.

Sinema and Manchin, however, emphasize the importance of filibuster in forcing parties to compromise.

“The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing political poles,” Simena wrote in a June 21 op-ed in The Washington Post.

Back in Northern California, away from the United States Capitol, Sinema took her August 2020 vacation from legislative work to see firsthand what bottom-up winemaking is like in Wine Country.

She was one of six or seven interns who worked with the small team, including Prichard, at Three Sticks.

“She really jumped as an intern student,” he said. “She was really great.”

Three Sticks is a winery owned by Bill Price and his family that produces approximately 10,000 cases a year of pinot noir and chardonnay wines. The winery started in 2002 and has a tasting room just off Sonoma Square.

Three Sticks sells most of its wines to consumers who are members of its wine club. The wines are also available on a selective basis in restaurants nationwide.

Prichard said Sinema was familiar with Three Sticks wines, spent time in the historic town, and so contacted the winery to inquire about an internship.

“She was interested in learning the winemaking process,” he said, noting that she worked hard in the wine cellar.

Sinema’s connection to Sonoma is unclear. She is apparently returning in August for a fundraiser at the MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa, a luxury property in Sonoma, where nightly rates start in the summer at $950. It’s a place where she held an event last year.

Her temporary job at Three Sticks added to Sinema’s growing list of firsts: Arizona’s first female senator, the state’s first Democratic senator since 1995, the first bisexual person elected to the U.S. Senate, and the first senator from the country to work as an intern at Sonoma. vineyard.

“She was complete and a great asset to the team,” Prichard said. “It ended up being a great experience for us. I hope she enjoyed it.

When asked if he would consider hiring another federal lawmaker interested in winemaking as an intern at a winery, the winemaker replied with a laugh:

“We would examine them and see if they are Three Sticks material.”

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