Some days ago, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who is one of the moderates holding up Biden’s “build back better” agenda, was accosted and filmed in a public bathroom. The illegal immigrant activists blistered her for not supporting a pathway to citizenship via reconciliation, something the Senate parliamentarian has already said can’t be done anyway.
But it was really the reaction to that scene that held the most impact. You expect far-left lunatics to be far-left lunatics. What Sinema probably didn’t expect was Joe Biden to claim the attack was “part of the process,” while Bernie Sanders holds up a letter of condemnation.
As I speculated, Sinema doesn’t appear to have taken too kindly to those acts of political cowardice. Reports are now saying she is refusing to accept calls from the White House.
CNN reporting that Sinema is refusing to return calls from the White House. Classic Gen X.
— David Marcus (@BlueBoxDave) October 8, 2021
Some are saying this doesn’t amount to a refusal to answer, but rather, Sinema is just slow-walking the White House, not returning the calls in a timely matter. Either way, it’s an absolutely savage move by the Arizona senator. The normal course in Washington is that if the president calls, you answer the phone or return the call immediately. Making Biden possibly wait days is a big-time power move that reasserts the dynamics at play. If the president felt he had leverage, he’s being reminded that he doesn’t.
And while I can’t say for sure, I’d be shocked if Biden’s treatment of Sinema hasn’t led to what appears to be a serious break in the relationship. There’s only so much one person can take, and the president’s dismissal of harassment — coupled with his public rhetoric about those that “stand in the way” of what he’s trying to do — has likely soured Sinema on getting anything done quickly. After all, what incentive does she have?
Biden overplayed his hand, just as Nancy Pelosi did on the congressional side of things. You cannot dictate to people that you have no leverage over. Sinema has governed as a moderate since taking office. She’s from a uniquely purple state that rewards being a “maverick.” The miscalculation was thinking that Sinema could ever be battered into falling in line. She may be a Democrat, but she’s her own Democrat.
As for Republicans, I know some were upset with McConnell’s move to offer a short-term debt ceiling deal, but what that did is take the one piece of leverage Democrats had, i.e. playing chicken over a default, off the table. Now, with the reality in play that nothing is going to get done in 2022 because it’s an election year, the Democrats are left to civil war with each other. Any possible pressure on Manchin and Sinema to make a filibuster exception was relieved. Lastly, Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi are left at the tender mercies of an Arizona senator who is not into playing games.