Activists angry with U.S. Sen Kyrsten Sinema over her objections to President Biden's social spending plan followed her into a restroom Sunday at Arizona State University's Phoenix campus, where she is a lecturer.
Members of Living United for Change in Arizona trailed Sinema, the only out bisexual senator, from her classroom to the restroom, saying, "We need a 'build back better' plan right now." Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia have frustrated their fellow Democrats with their failure to back the legislation, which would commit the federal government to spending $3.5 trillion over the next 10 years on a variety of social programs. Sinema and Manchin support more modest spending.
One woman stood outside a stall occupied by Sinema while another one filmed the confrontation from the restroom's entrance, The Washington Post reports. They accused her of betraying the people who supported her. "We knocked on doors for you," the woman who was filming said.
The group tweeted the video, saying constituents wouldn't have to confront Sinema "if she took meetings with the communities that elected her." There was also a protest against Sinema last week in Phoenix by the Working Families Party.
\u201cWe wouldn't have to resort to confronting @senatorsinema around Phx if she took meetings with the communities that elected her. She's been completely inaccessible. We're sick of the political games, stop playing with our lives. \n\u201cBuild back better, back the bill!"\u201d
The senator has been criticized not only for her failure to support Biden's "build back better" plan but for opposing other liberal measures, such as an increase in the federal minimum wage. She and Manchin are also resistant to getting rid of the filibuster, a Senate procedure under which it takes 60 votes to end debate on a bill and then move to a vote on the actual legislation. The filibuster could end up blocking the Equality Act, a sweeping LGBTQ+ rights bill that has already been passed by the U.S. House.
Sinema issued a statement Monday condemning the LUCHA activists' tactics. "Yesterday's behavior was not legitimate protest," she said. "It is unacceptable for activist organizations to instruct their members to jeopardize themselves by engaging in unlawful activities such as gaining entry to closed university buildings, disrupting learning environments, and filming students in a restroom. 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."
"The activist group that engaged in yesterday's behavior is one that both my team and I have met with several times since I was elected to the Senate, and I will continue engaging with Arizonans with diverse viewpoints to help inform my work for Arizona," she added.
LUCHA disputed that. "Senator Sinema has ignored us and all the people who fought hardest to elect her for years," LUCHA spokesman Cesar Fierros said in an email to The Hill.
"She's denied our requests, ignored our phone calls, and closed her office to her constituents," Fierros continued. "She hasn't had a public event or town hall in years. No one wants to meet with their senator in the restroom. But it seems like there's a price tag of several hundred thousand dollars to meet with her anywhere else." She held a fundraising event last week with business lobbyists who oppose the "build back better" legislation, The Hill reports.