President Biden on Monday downplayed the aggressive tactics that activists have used to pressure Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin into backing a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, telling reporters the confrontations are “part of the process.”
Progressive activists disrupted Sinema’s lecture at Arizona State University over the weekend and followed her into the bathroom, filming outside the stall she was using while shouting questions. Another group of activists surrounded Manchin’s houseboat in Washington, D.C. on kayaks to badger him with questions.
Asked about the confrontations on Monday, Biden said the harassment “happens to everybody.”
“I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody … it’s part of the process,” Biden said.
ASU students who identified as illegal immigrants surrounded Sinema as she entered the bathroom and shouted about the importance of passing a pathway to citizenship for their fellow aliens. The pathway to citizenship provision was struck from the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation package after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that it did not fall within the budget process.
In a statement Monday, Sinema called the episode an “illegitimate protest” that “victimized” her students unfairly and unlawfully. The students gained access to the locked building to disturb the class, despite being unauthorized to enter, Sinema claimed.
“In the 19 years I have been teaching at ASU, I have been committed to creating a safe and intellectually challenging environment for my students. Yesterday, that environment was breached. My students were unfairly and unlawfully victimized. This is wholly inappropriate,” the Arizona senator wrote.
Sinema and Manchin have for months been under intense pressure to support the reconciliation bill but have so far remained steadfast in their resistance to it, citing concerns with inflation and the ever-expanding welfare state. The fiscal package encompasses many Democratic legislative priorities, including climate change, child care, education, healthcare. If enacted, it would be the largest spending bill in American history.