Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has completely disrupted the Democratic Party and delivered a jolt to Washington. She is leaving the Democrats in the dust and changing her party affiliation to independent. Sinema said in a 45-minute interview that she will not caucus with Republicans.
The first-term senator also suggested that she intends to vote the same way she has for four years in the Senate, saying: “Nothing will change about my values or my behavior.” Though it will not precisely be the neat and tidy 51 seats Democrats assumed, they will still have a workable Senate majority in the next Congress, if Sinema sticks to what she said. It is also expected to also have the votes to control Senate committees.
This move by Sinema means that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will hold onto some but not all of his outsized influence in the Democratic caucus. Manchin was a pivotal swing vote in the 50-50 chamber the past two years, reported Politico.
Whether she will run for reelection in 2024, Sinema did not address anything regarding that matter, and she informed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of her decision. “I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure,” said Sinema.
She also added that some of the exact mechanics of how her switch affects the chamber is “a question for Chuck Schumer … I intend to show up to work, do the same work that I always do. I just intend to show up to work as an independent.”
The fact that she “never really fit into a box of any political party,” is the reason why she made a closely held decision to leave the Democratic Party, and that description also applies to her fiercely independent state and millions of unaffiliated voters across the country, as she says.
Sinema competes in Ironman triathlons, moonlighted at a Napa Valley winery, and often hangs out on the GOP side of the aisle during floor votes, so she has a well-established iconoclastic reputation.
In a political career built on working almost as closely with Republicans as she does with Democrats, she said that her party switch is a logical next step for her. During the current 50-50 Senate, that same approach helped her play a pivotal role in bipartisan deals on infrastructure, same-sex marriage, and gun safety.
Her move will certainly embolden her Democratic critics, at home and on the Hill, and will also buck up her GOP allies. “Criticism from outside entities doesn’t really matter to me,” she said. Sinema also added that she’ll go for a “hard run” after her announcement becomes public, “because that’s mostly what I do Friday mornings.” At one point in the interview, Sinema said: “I want people to see that it is possible to do good work with folks from all different political persuasions, and to do it without the pressures or the poles of a party structure.”