Oct 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Sanders’ Sinema spat

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kyrsten Sinema are seen in the U.S. Capitol.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Bernie Sanders arrive in the Capitol for a vote in July 2020. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) withheld support for a joint statement condemning last weekend's protests against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) because it also wouldn't include a rebuke of her political views, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The move is emblematic of the hostility between the progressive and moderate members, who have been sparring over the cost and scope of President Biden's agenda. Sanders wanted the statement to urge Sinema to drop her opposition to prescription drug reform, as well as Biden's $3.5 trillion social safety net expansion.

Driving the news: An email exchange between Senate Democratic leadership aides, obtained by Axios, reveals Sanders withheld his name from a joint statement declaring protesters who followed Sinema into a bathroom — and filmed her while using the restroom — as "plainly inappropriate and unacceptable."

  • Sanders' communications director Mike Casca asked that the statement be edited to include the preface, "While we hope Senator Sinema will change her position on prescription drug reform and support a major [budget] reconciliation bill, ..."
  • An aide to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who organized the statement, said Booker would not accept the edits.
  • Casca later replied: "Sanders will not be signing, so please cut 'Senate Democratic Leadership Team' from headline."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) all signed onto the statement in addition to Booker.

  • Excerpts of the leaked exchange are shown below. Axios has confirmed the contents of the full exchange with other Senate offices.
  • Casca, Sanders' communications director, declined comment. Sinema's spokesman also declined comment.

State of play: The statement has not been published. It's currently unclear whether it will run.

Between the lines: The move comes as those in Sinema's orbit have privately vented frustration that her fellow Democratic senators and the White House haven’t more forcefully spoken out.

  • She described the incident at Arizona State University as "not legitimate protest," and "wholly inappropriate."
  • On Monday, Biden told reporters he didn't think the protesters' tactics were "appropriate," then added, "but it happens to everybody."
  • The president went on to say, "The only people it doesn’t happen to are people who have Secret Service standing around them. So, it’s part of the process."

Screenshotted excerpts of the email exchange, obtained by Axios:

Screenshots of excerpts of an email exchange between Senate Democratic aides
Screenshots of the email exchange, obtained by Axios.
Screenshots the email exchange, obtained by Axios.
Screenshots of the email exchange, obtained by Axios.
Screenshots the email exchange, obtained by Axios.
Screenshots of the email exchange, obtained by Axios.
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