With Biden's agenda at stake, activists target Sinema, divide Democrats

WASHINGTON – In the days that followed the trail of protesters with cell phone cameras Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema in a university b...


WASHINGTON – In the days that followed the trail of protesters with cell phone cameras Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema in a university bathroom to confront her with opposing parts of President Biden’s agenda, the Senate’s leading Democrats drafted a statement of outrage on behalf of their centrist colleague.

“Following someone into a bathroom and filming the meeting is just inappropriate, and it goes beyond a clear line,” the senators wrote. “What happened in this video was a clear violation of Senator Sinema’s privacy that has no place in our public discourse, and we strongly condemn it.”

But the statement was never released. Senator Bernie Sanders, the progressive independent from Vermont, refused to sign after other Democrats rejected her request to include a call for Ms Sinema to kiss Mr Biden’s billions of dollars. social safety net, education plan, climate and taxation. The organizers of the letter then decided not to send the message of support to a senator who angered some of her constituents by refusing to meet them or answer their questions.

The flap, reported earlier by Axios, reflects a wider dispute between Democrats over how to navigate internal divisions on Mr. Biden’s agenda, how aggressively to face party rebels who stand in the way of his plans and what is the best strategy to keep their promises to their progressive based. It takes place at a time when the stakes are high for the president and his party, as they assemble a vast set of domestic policies that could be their last opportunity to adopt crucial priorities and push them through Congress all. while retaining unified control of Washington.

As Mr Sanders’ request showed, party leaders share the goals of protesters pressuring Ms Sinema, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III and other conservative Democrats to drop out their resistance to ambitious legislation. But many members of Congress are uncomfortable with the activists’ increasingly bold tactics.

In recent weeks, protesters have paddled kayaks down the Potomac River to confront Mr. Manchin on his yacht docked near the Capitol. Activists chanting “Shame on you, Josh!” visited the district offices of Rep. Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey, a prominent centrist who has pushed to delay the social policy bill until a bipartisan infrastructure measure can be passed.

The targeting of Ms Sinema – whom protesters followed to a fundraiser at a luxury resort, chased through an airport, and continued to the door of a bathroom at the university where she teaches – has been particularly aggressive, prompting calls from some fellow Democrats for activists to fire.

“It was awful,” said Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, of the latest protest against Ms. Sinema. “Direct action is perfectly appropriate in American-style democracy. But bathrooms are prohibited. It should go without saying, but apparently we need to be clear: bathrooms are off limits. “

Majority leader Senator Chuck Schumer of New York City said he sympathized with the protesters’ message – especially those advocating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants – but disapproved of their tactics.

“I strongly support the right to protest peacefully,” Schumer said. “I started my career protesting the Vietnam War, and I get protested all the time. I understand, and therefore I feel for the immigrant community and what they are going through. But following someone into a bathroom and recording them, you’re done.

In her own statement, Ms Sinema condemned the meeting in the bathroom as “totally inappropriate” and suggested that it was, at least in part, the result of the heated debate that surrounded Mr. Biden.

“It is the duty of elected leaders to avoid fostering an environment in which honest political disagreements serve as the basis of vitriol – by raising the temperature of political rhetoric and creating an authorizing structure for unacceptable behavior,” he said. she declared.

Ms Sinema has been repeatedly criticized by her party’s progressive wing, including New York Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who wrote on Twitter that Ms. Sinema “was trying to spare millions of health care opportunities for millions of people.”

The senator has become one of the focal points of an intense lobbying campaign by the White House and party leaders, because in an equally divided Senate, Democrats need each of their members to push through social policy and the climate bill. This gives Ms Sinema an effective veto on the package.

She privately told her colleagues that she was opposed to the corporate and personal tax increases that Democrats have offered to pay for the plan. She is also pushing to reduce the cost of the package and resist a prominent proposal to reduce prescription drug prices.

Protesters who dragged her to the bathroom, from LUCHA Arizona, a grassroots progressive organization, said they were forced to do so because Ms. Sinema stopped holding town halls or answering questions from citizens. voters.

They said they were pushing for a path to citizenship for around eight million undocumented immigrants, a priority for Mr Biden that is under threat due to complex budget rules that could prevent his inclusion in the bill. Campaigners see the measure as their best chance at enacting deportation protections for undocumented migrants as they look to the midterm elections next year and the very real prospect that Republicans could take over. House control. And they see Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin as hindering forces.

“Sinema’s voters were not allowed access to his office, they were ignored, fired and upset,” the group said in a statement after the protest.

A spokeswoman for Ms Sinema disputed allegations that the senator refused to meet with LUCHA and provided a document showing that her office had met the activists on five occasions in April and May.

Mr Sanders’ staff had initially shown a willingness to sign a letter of support for Ms Sinema, according to people familiar with the discussions. But they sought to add a line saying Democratic leaders had hoped she “would change her stance on prescription drug reform and support a major reconciliation bill.”

When an aide to Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who organized the statement, rejected the addition, Mr. Sanders withheld his name and the effort quickly collapsed.

Mr Biden offered some public support for Ms Sinema, but also said he believed interacting with protesters was part of an official’s job.

“I don’t think these are appropriate tactics, but it happens to everyone,” Biden told reporters. “The only people that doesn’t happen to are the people who have the Secret Service around them. So this is part of the process.

But many members of Congress have feared what they see as an increased likelihood of political violence, such as a shoot a congressional baseball practice in 2017 at the Pro-Trump mob attack on Capitol Hill January 6th.

North Dakota Republican Senator Kevin Cramer said the protests against Ms Sinema were part of a trend of polarization and anger in US politics.

Mr. Cramer saw it with his own eyes. The day before January 6, he tried in vain to denounce the outraged voters who supported President Donald J. Trump and who confronted him on Capitol Hill to ask him why he didn’t oppose the 2020 election results.

“What has been happening more and more lately is that we have seen less courtesy in people who bring grievances to their representation,” Cramer said. “It’s going to crescendo.”



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Newsrust - US Top News: With Biden's agenda at stake, activists target Sinema, divide Democrats
With Biden's agenda at stake, activists target Sinema, divide Democrats
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