By Caroline Downey. Media: National Review.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema, formerly one of the two Democratic swing votes in the chamber, announced Friday that she is leaving the party to register as an independent.
“Everyday Americans are increasingly left behind by national parties’ rigid partisanship, which has hardened in recent years. Pressures in both parties pull leaders to the edges, allowing the loudest, most extreme voices to determine their respective parties’ priorities and expecting the rest of us to fall in line,” the moderate wrote in an op-ed for the Arizona Republic.
Sinema released a video further explaining her decision to split with the Democrats and declare herself an Independent. Since she first entered the Senate, Sinema claimed she’s functioned as an independent, willing to work across the aisle with either side of the political spectrum.
“Becoming an Independent won’t change my work in the Senate; my service to Arizona remains the same,” she said.
The senator said she will not caucus with the Republicans in an interview with Politico but did not say whether she would caucus with the Democrats. “She intends to maintain her committee assignments from the Democratic majority,” a Sinema spokesperson told the Washington Post.
Sinema’s defection comes after the Democrats gained 51 Senate seats following incumbent candidate Raphael Warnock’s victory against Hershel Walker in the Georgia runoff race. With Sinema’s departure, her colleague Joe Manchin will be left the sole centrist Democrat in the Senate.
The White House issued a statement suggesting it is not expecting the balance of power to shift in the Senate with Sinema’s move.
“Senator Sinema has been a key partner on some of the historic legislation President Biden has championed over the last 20 months, from the American Rescue Plan to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, from the Inflation Reduction Act to the CHIPS and Science Act, from the PACT Act to the Gun Safety Act to the Respect for Marriage Act, and more,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
“We understand that her decision to register as an independent in Arizona does not change the new Democratic majority control of the Senate, and we have every reason to expect that we will continue to work successfully with her,” she added.
Ruffling the feathers of both parties, Sinema has signed onto some GOP-backed and some Democratic-backed legislative projects. For instance, Sinema, and Manchin, vowed not to support Democrats’ efforts to nuke the filibuster to enact a federal abortion law, killing the initiative.
But last summer, a gun bill, spearheaded by a bipartisan coalition including Sinema, that would direct federal funding to states to implement red flag laws cleared the initial Senate hurdle. Sinema also voted for the Respect for Marriage Act codifying same-sex marriage protections, which passed the House Thursday with the support of 39 Republicans.
Speaking about the residents of Arizona, Sinema said in the video: “I promised them I would be an independent voice for our state.” The title “Independent” is a “reflection of who Arizona is…it’s who we are as a people,” she said.