Senator Kyrsten Sinema nearly quit Biden last year in a tense exchange on Build Back Better. The Arizona Democrat was angry with Biden for leaking his spending demands during a meeting at the White House. “Do you want me to leave?” she asked, according to a book by two New York Times reporters. Something is loading.
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema nearly left President Joe Biden in the Oval Office during a tense exchange over the scope of his economic agenda, according to a forthcoming book by two New York Times reporters.
Dispatch first reported details of the back and forth between the pair. Insider also obtained a copy of the book “This Will Not Pass” ahead of its May 3 release.
According to authors Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Biden aggressively sought to reconcile tensions between the centrist and progressive wings of his party last summer around the size and scope of his economic agenda. Progressives were pushing to move forward with new social and climate programs while moderates were trying to curb their ambitions and had budget concerns.
In a meeting with moderate Democrats, Biden revealed that Sinema had set his Build Back Better spending limit at $1.1 trillion, about a third less than the senator’s $1.5 trillion award. Joe Manchin.
Sinema appeared “visibly angry” with Biden for revealing details of their personal interviews, Burns and Martin write. Biden aides had “feared that if Sinema drew a public red line at $1.1 trillion — a miserable sum by liberal standards — then the party would erupt into open war.”
The authors wrote, “‘Mr. President,’ she said, ‘this was a private conversation.’ Sinema started to get up. She asked Biden, ‘Do you want me to leave?’ “
The president rushed to ease tensions with the recalcitrants. “If Biden resented his theatrics, he didn’t say so at the time,” Burns and Martin write. “He couldn’t afford to lose his vote.”
Sinema spokespersons did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We respect that there will be no shortage of books written about the administration containing a wide variety of claims,” a White House official told Insider on condition of anonymity. “We do not plan to engage in confirmations or denials with respect to the specifics of these claims.”
The tense exchange underscores the outsized influence Sinema wields over the national Democratic agenda. Democrats cannot deliver a scaled-down version of their Build Back Better plan without unanimous 50-50 Senate support to defeat united GOP opposition.
Last year, Sinema baffled Democrats with his insistence on not negotiating in public and only dealing directly with the White House. His opposition to raising corporate and income tax rates forced the party to abandon efforts to reverse Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, long a top priority for Democrats to tackle inequality.
The Arizona Democrat recently said she has no plans to change her demands in upcoming negotiations over a smaller spending bill. Sinema also said she remained strongly opposed to raising tax rates on the wealthy and big business, arguing it would hurt their economic competitiveness.
“What I can’t tell you is whether negotiations will resume or what they will look like,” Sinema said at an Arizona Chamber of Commerce event last month. “But what I can promise you is that I will be the same person in the negotiations if they start again that I was in the negotiations last year.”