• The San Juan Daily Star

As budget bill hangs in limbo, Kyrsten Sinema heads to Europe

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 6, 2021. With the Senate out of session, Sinema has been in Europe on a fund-raising trip.

By Shane Goldmacher

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a moderate Arizona Democrat who has objected to the size and scope of President Joe Biden’s sweeping legislative agenda, has been trailed all over the country by progressive activists seeking to pressure her. They have followed her into a bathroom in Arizona, on an airplane and even to the Boston Marathon.

But this week, with the Senate out of session, those activists would have had to travel even farther to press their case with Sinema in person — she’s in Europe on a fundraising trip.

A spokesperson for Sinema said she had participated in fundraising for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee but declined to say where or provide any additional details. One person briefed on the matter said an event had occurred in Paris. It was not clear whether her trip to Europe was at the urging of the party committee.

The chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, is also in Europe this week and headlined a dinner Wednesday in London, with contribution levels as much as $36,500, according to a copy of an invitation. Sinema’s name does not appear on that invitation.

A spokesperson for the Senate committee declined to comment on the events in Europe or on Sinema’s role.

Although political campaigns and parties cannot raise money from foreign nationals, U.S. citizens living abroad can and do regularly contribute.

Sinema’s office declined to say how long she would be abroad, what countries she was visiting, how the trip was being paid for or whether she was doing any additional fundraising for her own campaign. Her political team had reached out to set up meetings in London and Paris, according to two people familiar with the matter.

John LaBombard, a spokesperson for Sinema, said she remained engaged in the negotiations in Washington.

“So far this week, Sen. Sinema has held several calls — including with President Biden, the White House team, Sen. Schumer’s team, and other Senate and House colleagues — to continue discussions on the proposed budget reconciliation package,” LaBombard said, referring to Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Those conversations are ongoing.”

Sinema is one of the most closely watched Senate Democrats in the country as one of two centrists, along with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who have objected to the price of Biden’s budget package, which could spend as much as $3.5 trillion over a decade remaking social and climate policy in the nation.

With the Senate tied 50-50, Democrats need unanimity to pass any package, which has greatly empowered both Manchin and Sinema as the party’s vocal holdouts. Vice President Kamala Harris would serve as the tiebreaking vote.

Sinema has pushed for the House to adopt a separate, bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill while the larger budget package is being negotiated. She called the delay in voting on the infrastructure package “inexcusable” and “deeply disappointing” in early October.

When the Senate is out of session, senators are free to fundraise, return to their home states for events, remain in Washington working on legislation or travel abroad, both for official government business and for vacations.

Sinema’s fundraising while in the midst of budget negotiations has already drawn scrutiny. In late September, a group of five business lobbying groups, many of which oppose the budget bill, held a fundraiser for her in Washington, D.C. Sponsors of that event included the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and the grocers’ political action committee, as well as lobbyists for roofers and electrical contractors.

Days later, Sinema traveled to Arizona, where she had a “retreat” for her political action committee at a high-end resort and spa in Phoenix. When she left Washington, the reason that her spokesperson provided was a medical appointment for a foot injury. That injury prevented her from running the Boston Marathon, although she still attended. Some climate activists showed up and waved a banner that urged her to “Be brave — fight for us.”

Progressive activists have expressed growing frustration with Sinema in recent weeks, with some trying to recruit a primary challenger when she is next up for reelection, in 2024.

In July, Sinema had $3.5 million in her reelection account.

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