Biden on Sinema being followed into the bathroom: Hey, it's part of the process

He concedes halfheartedly that the tactics weren’t appropriate but he’s shockingly nonchalant about a woman whom he knows personally being cornered in a restroom by a group of angry activists.

As I recall, this guy got elected by promising a return to “norms.” Is that the norm he had in mind?

Contrast Sinema’s own statement this morning with Biden’s rhetorical shrug. “Yesterday’s behavior was not legitimate protest. It is unacceptable for activist organizations to instruct their members to jeopardize themselves by engaging in unlawful activities such as gaining entry to close university buildings, disrupting learning environments, and filming students in a restroom,” she wrote, adding, “This is wholly inappropriate.” A few hours later, she turned on her TV and had to watch this:

Golly. If I were a president whose entire domestic agenda hung on Kyrsten Sinema’s cooperation, I’d try to at least feign concern for her safety and well-being. Between his callousness here and his alliance with progressives to thwart the bipartisan infrastructure bill she helped pass, she must be wondering if she and Joe Biden are more enemies than allies at this point.

I mean, I’ve seen a few “Dems in disarray” news cycles in my time but I’ve never seen one where the commander-in-chief essentially yawns when asked about a senator from his own party being accosted on camera while sitting on a toilet.

Having MAGA fans follow Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski into a restroom to berate them while nature called would be a harbinger of the downfall of the republic for America’s media, needless to say. Charles Cooke notes that the Sinema incident is being covered differently:

The condemnation was . . . well, non-existent. Reporting on the incident, Newsweek led with the fact that, as of last night, the video had “been viewed 4 million times on social media.” At the Washington Post, the key takeaway was that “frustration over Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s refusal to fall in line with other Senate Democrats and pass legislation central to President Biden’s agenda” had “boiled over.” On Twitter, meanwhile, the Daily Beast contended merely that Sinema had “locked herself in [the] bathroom to avoid young activists.”…

One imagines that this might be more obvious if the politics were slightly different. If, instead of a left-winger berating a moderate Democrat in the loo, a right-winger had berated a moderate Republican, it would have been the biggest news of the year. Within minutes, the incident would have had a name — the “Arizona Attack,” perhaps. Within a day, it would have been deemed to be representative of everything that was wrong with the American Right — and with the United States itself. Within a week, we would have been drowning in breathless TV segments, tendentious op-eds, and mawkish lectures about the sanctity of democracy in the United States.

“Norms” are a complicated thing. Although not that complicated in this case: The activist left’s core norm is to advance the progressive agenda, and to the extent Sinema stands in the way of that, she should expect public embarrassment and even intimidation. Evidently the president subscribes to that norm too.

Maybe he was just cranky today? His chief topic this afternoon was the debt ceiling, a subject that would poison the mood of even the cheeriest politician:

According to the Treasury Department, we’re set to hit the ceiling two weeks from now. Republicans say they absolutely, categorically will not vote to increase it; if Senate Dems are intent on governing by simple majority via reconciliation, they can go ahead and raise the debt limit by reconciliation too. Democrats say they absolutely, categorically will not use reconciliation to raise the debt ceiling; that would be complicated and time-consuming (although maybe not as time-consuming as they claim), and as we get closer to the deadline day by day it becomes less tenable. Result: The two parties are letting brinksmanship drag them closer to the fiscal equivalent of nuclear war, in which “[t]he U.S. could suddenly be unable to fund basic federal entitlements and services — including Social Security checks and salaries for military and federal personnel — as the recovery from the coronavirus recession faces new threats. Interest rates within the U.S. would likely skyrocket and global financial markets could seize as trillions of dollars of Treasury bonds become irredeemable.”

It can’t happen. Yet unless someone blinks after months of vowing not to do so, it will happen.

McConnell sent Biden a letter this morning warning him that he’s not bluffing and that the White House had better light a fire under Schumer’s ass to get going on using reconciliation to raise the ceiling. McConnell’s taking a risk by doing that, though, and not just the risk of a default by the U.S. on its obligations. AEI’s Michael Strain noted recently that if Schumer attaches a debt-ceiling hike to the Dems’ reconciliation bill on infrastructure (which, ah, doesn’t exist yet) it’ll be very, very hard for Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to vote no even if the bill calls for much more spending than they’re comfortable with. On a gut-check vote on, say, a $2.5 trillion reconciliation package, how does Manchinema oppose it knowing that the fate of the global economic stability depends upon them supporting it?

Strain thinks the GOP should suck it up and avert a cataclysm: “Ten Republican senators aren’t even needed to vote for the actual bill — they just need to agree not to filibuster it.” Right. All 50 Republicans could vote no on the bill itself, but they would need 10 to vote with Democrats for cloture. Which raises another risk: If Schumer puts a standalone bill to hike the debt ceiling on the floor, would Manchin and Sinema agree to create an exception to the filibuster for the sake of passing it if they can’t get 10 Republicans to come along? Risky business here for all sides.

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on December 01, 2022