California Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna ripped into Senator Kyrsten Sinema on Sunday morning, asking why his fellow Democrat in Congress keeps blocking the party’s major infrastructure bill—and slithering away from answering questions.
“Why doesn’t she explain herself? I’ve never seen a politician—other than frankly [former President] Trump—who just totally ducks answering the questions from the media and constituents. She’s not clear about what she believes,” Khanna told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.
The senator from Arizona has been largely criticized for being one of only two Democrats in the United States Senate—the other being Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia—holding back President Joe Biden’s sweeping, multi-trillion dollar “Build Back Better” infrastructure bill. But Sinema is also taking blows for dodging reporters and constituents who ask her about her resistance.
“Senator Manchin has been a straight shooter, you know where he stands… but Sinema, why are the rules different for her? Why doesn’t she go on shows like yours?” Khanna said on the television program.
“I’m a little frustrated,” Wallace volunteered during the interview. “She won’t even meet with us in private.”
The Daily Beast put the question to Sinema’s staff, who pointed out that Sinema has indeed been engaging with journalists and Arizonans earlier this week.
“Senator Sinema held her latest event with Arizonans and two subsequent press interviews—with one of the state’s largest newspapers and one of the state’s largest radio stations—the day before yesterday,” said Hannah L. Hurley, her press secretary.
During one of those interactions—her radio interview on Friday with Arizona’s KTAR News 92.3 FM—Sinema defended her reluctance to engage with journalists about her policy discussions and said she is progressing on her deal-making with fellow Democrats and the White House.
“This should be no surprise. Everyone knows I'm a fiscal conservative, and I told President Biden and Senator Schumer I will protect Arizona jobs from federal policies that would negatively impact our economic competitiveness,” she told cohosts Larry Gaydos and Chad Benson.
“I don’t negotiate policy through the press,” Sinema said.
Meanwhile, she’s been challenged by activists at an airport. And youth organizers confronted her at Arizona State University, where she teaches, and followed her to a campus bathroom—a tactic that could result in criminal charges.
Fellow Democrats have turned on her. As The Daily Beast documented earlier this month, long-time friends and donors are pulling back and some donors have altogether ditched her. It’s gotten so bad that progressives in her home state have been turning up the heat on their senator, threatening to boot her from office by standing up a future primary challenger.
Some of the anger comes from Sinema’s perceived betrayal of progressive policies, like her insistence on watering down climate change policies that seek major changes to slow down the threat to the planet. Others are horrified at how it seems the senator is just trolling everyone, like the time she jovially signalled a thumbs-down in Congress—to knock down a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.