The White House toughened on Friday President Joe Biden’s response to protesters cornering Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in a bathroom.
“He believes that what happened to her crossed the line and was flat-out unacceptable,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the briefing.
She added, “It doesn’t need to happen that way.”
Psaki’s condemnation was firmer than the one she and Biden offered earlier this week after demonstrators followed Sinema, a critical Democratic vote, into a bathroom at Arizona State University, where she guest lectures. People approached on her flight to Washington, D.C., and at Reagan National Airport as well.
Tensions within the Democratic Party have risen as lawmakers try to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal and the $3.5 trillion partisan social welfare and climate proposal. Sinema, along with centrist West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, has blocked the latter until the price tag drops.
Biden “wants to move forward as quickly as possible,” but Psaki declined to set another deadline after Democrats missed one for the bipartisan package last week.
“We don’t have the luxury of being frustrated. This is a process,” she said, adding Manchin and Sinema were negotiating in good faith. “The president is confident we’re going to get this done.”
Biden did manage to avoid having the country default on its debt this week for the first time in history — for now. But Psaki did not provide details regarding how he would do the same when the Treasury Department’s short-term borrowing extension expires in December.
“Leader Schumer has shown great skill in navigating this process,” she said of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who rankled Republicans with a fiery floor speech after the bipartisan debt ceiling agreement was reached.
Biden’s legislative agenda has been hamstrung by sagging polling. This week, he recorded the lowest approval rating of his presidency: 38%.
“I would say this is a really tough time in our country. We’re still battling COVID, and a lot of people thought we’d be through it, including us,” Psaki said. “That’s far and away the biggest issue in the minds of the American people.”
After a quick press briefing before the federal government’s Columbus Day long weekend, Psaki also answered a question about Biden’s persistent cough as she left the room.
“He’s doing great. He’s got some allergies,” she said.
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Original Author: Naomi Lim