Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) had good things to say about centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) during a speech at the University of Louisville on Monday.

“I’ve only known Kyrsten for four years, but she is, in my view … the most effective first-term senator I’ve seen,” McConnell said as he invited her to the stage.

“She is, today, what we have too few of in the Democratic Party: A genuine moderate and a dealmaker,” the Kentucky Republican added. “As you can tell, I have a very high opinion of the senator from Arizona,” he said. “But my biggest compliment to her is: She protects the institution of the Senate.”

Sinema has been a thorn in the sides of her Democratic colleagues. She, along with moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia), have stood in the way of Democratic initiatives such as getting rid of the filibuster. It would do away with the 60-vote threshold needed to pass most bills, which has proven to be a tall order in the evenly split Senate.

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Sinema took the stage to speak on the importance of bipartisanship.

“Despite our apparent differences, Sen. McConnell and I have forged a friendship,” Sinema told the crowd. “One that is rooted in our commonalities, including our pragmatic approach to legislating, our respect for the Senate as an institution, our love for our home states and a dogged determination on behalf of our constituents.”

Sinema was censured by the Arizona Democrats in January after she refused to change her stance on the filibuster to pass voting rights bills even though she agreed with passing the bills.

“When one party need only negotiate with itself, policy will inextricably be pushed from the middle towards the extremes,” Sinema said at the time.

Sinema will be up for re-election in 2024 – and many progressive Democrats have called for her to receive a primary challenge from the left. McConnell’s praise is sure to increase those calls.

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