In a move that shook up the political landscape in D.C., Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema abandoned President Joe Biden’s Democrat Party by declaring her intention to move forward with her legislative career as an independent, as the Daily Caller reports.
Sinema made her announcement via Twitter as well as in a more detailed op-ed written for the Arizona Republic, endeavoring to answer the inevitable – and voluminous – criticisms from members of her now-former party.
“A natural extension”
Outlining the rationale for her shock move, Sinema explained, “In a natural extension of my service since I was first elected to Congress, I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington and formally registering as an Arizona Independent.”
The sometimes-controversial lawmaker, 46, has often courted the ire of fellow Democrats for refusing to bend unquestioningly to leadership demands, and she continued with her explanation to constituents by saying, “I promised I would never bend to party pressure, and I would stay focused on solving problems and getting things done for everyday Arizonans. My approach is rare in Washington and has upset partisans in both parties.”
Touting what she believes is the productive tack she has taken in the Senate thus far, Sinema added, “Over the past four years, I’ve worked proudly with other senators in both parties and forced consensus on successful laws helping everyday Arizonans build better lives for themselves and their families.”
Caucus likely unchanged
The senator’s Friday announcement prompted a wave of questions as to whether or not she would continue to caucus with Democrats, but according to Fox News, indications from Sinema are that she has no plans to shift to the Republican contingent in the chamber and that nothing will change in that regard.
“I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure,” Sinema said. “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.”
As Fox News further noted, that statement would surely come as a great relief to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), as it would afford him a 51-seat majority in the next Congress, and as such, Democrats would take full control of the body without needing the tie-breaking votes from Vice President Kamala Harris that were necessary on multiple occasions over the past two years.
The implications of Sinema’s anticipated continued alignment with the Democrat caucus were described by a senior party aide, who said, “Since the Senate is organized on a majority basis, Democrats would have more power over committees and legislation if the majority is 51 seats. If it’s 50-50, the good news is that nothing changes, but that’s also not an optimal place for a party officially in control.”
Dems blast move
Even though Sinema’s departure from the party is unlikely to have any appreciably harmful effect on the Democrats’ legislative fortunes, it did not take long for numerous voices on the left to take direct aim at her decision.
According to the New York Post, the Arizona Democratic Party released a statement slamming Sinema’s prior refusals to support elimination of the Senate’s filibuster rules as well as her continued opposition to raising corporate tax rates.
“As a party, we welcome Independent voters and their perspectives. Senator Sinema may now be registered as an Independent, but she has shown she answers to corporations and billionaires, not Arizonans. Senator Sinema’s party registration means nothing if she continues to not listen to her constituents, the statement declared.
Rep. Reuben Gallego (D-AZ), who many have pegged as a possible 2024 Sinema challenger, added his voice to those condemning her disaffiliation with the party, according to the Post, contending that she had put “her own interests ahead of getting things done for Arizonans.”
Though losing a high-profile member of the party is never a good look for a sitting president, it appears that President Joe Biden and members of his administration are not overly concerned – at least not publicly – about the development, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre deeming the senator a “key partner” and maintaining, “[w]e have every reason to expect that we will continue to work successfully with her.”