Well, we can’t say we didn’t see this one coming. After disrupting the advancement of the Democrats’ plans for policy when they had control of all of Congress and the White House, Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema has officially announced that she is leaving the Democratic Party and will register as an Independent.
In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Sinema explained how she came to this decision. “I know some people might be a little bit surprised by this, but actually, I think it makes a lot of sense. I’ve never fit neatly into any party box. I’ve never really tried. I don’t want to. Removing myself from the partisan structure – not only is it true to who I am and how I operate, I also think it’ll provide a place of belonging for many folks across the state and the country, who also are tired of the partisanship.”
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The move should not be a surprise to those who have followed her career. Sinema started her career as a member of the Green Party before being elected to the US House (2012) and US Senate (2018) as a Democrat. As a “DINO” (Democrat In Name Only), she has prided herself in going against the grain when it comes to advancing the party’s various agendas, including her being very vocal about keeping the long-criticized senatorial filibuster intact.
Now, the big question is: How will this affect the Democrats’ newly cemented majority in the US Senate?
Well, as grand of a statement as Sinema is trying to make, it will have very little effect. Democrats have a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate, with two Independents who caucus with them: Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King. While Sinema didn’t outright say that she will continue to caucus with the Democrats, she did say that she intends to keep her committee appointments. Since committees are normally based on caucuses and are currently appointed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, it appears that Sinema will continue to caucus with the Democrats.
The only immediate consequence to this decision may come in the next election. Sinema is up for reelection in 2024, and with voters on both sides unhappy with her performance, Sinema may face a challenge to keep her seat. Politico reports that Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) could be a possible contender for the Democrats to grab the Senate seat, despite the fact that Sinema’s switch would delay a head-to-head matchup with the other candidates until the general election.
However, Sinema is not focused on a reelection campaign at this point. “I’m just not worried about folks who may not like this approach,” Sinema said. “What I am worried about is continuing to do what’s right for my state. And there are folks who certainly don’t like my approach, we hear about it a lot. But the proof is in the pudding.”
Honestly, the only semi-surprising part about this is that she didn’t completely jump to the GOP, but that’s a different story for a different day.
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