Sinema’s decision to become independent upends the Senate.


Sinema’s decision to become independent upends the Senate. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is switching to the independent party, giving the Democratic Party’s remote control in Washington a shock.

The first-term senator told POLITICO in a 45-minute interview that she will not caucus with Republicans and that she plans to vote the same way she has for the past four years in the Senate. Nothing about my values or behavior will change, she declared.

Democrats will still hold a functional Senate majority in the upcoming Congress, even though it will not precisely be the tidy 51 seats they thought, provided Sinema honors her promise. They should also have enough support to dominate Senate committees. Additionally, Sinema’s decision affects Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a crucial swing vote.

Sinema notified Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of her decision on Thursday but would not say whether she would seek reelection in 2024.

Sinema stated, “I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure,” adding that some of the specifics of how her election will change the Senate are “an issue for Chuck Schumer. I intend to attend work and do the same work I always do. I aim to arrive at work and work independently.

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Sinema has a well-known history of iconoclasm. She participates in Ironman triathlons, works a second job at a vineyard in the Napa Valley, and frequently hangs around on the Republican side of the aisle during floor votes.

The 46-year-old claimed that switching parties is a logical progression in a political career founded on collaboration with Republicans and Democrats on a nearly equal footing. With the current 50–50 Senate, she was able to play a crucial part in bipartisan agreements on infrastructure, gun safety, and same-sex marriage thanks to her strategy. Additionally, it has angered some Democrats, especially with her opposition to tax rate increases and efforts to weaken the filibuster.

Her action will bolster her Republican backers and give her Democratic detractors more ammunition at home and on Capitol Hill. After her announcement was made public, Sinema claimed that “criticism from outside entities doesn’t matter to me” and that she would go for a “hard run” because “that’s typically what I do Friday mornings.”

She was anticipating a primary challenge from Rep. Ruben Gallego in 2024, even before she changed parties (D-Ariz.). If she decides to run for reelection, becoming independent will prevent her from facing Gallego or another progressive in a head-to-head primary. If both Democrats and Republicans run candidates against Clinton, a hypothetical general election campaign might be chaotic.

Sinema claimed that despite the Democratic Party’s backing in her arduous 2018 campaign, she has a different objective: distancing herself from a party that has never been a fit. That year, she defeated former Sen. Martha McSally to become Arizona’s first Democratic senatorial candidate to win in three decades (R-Ariz.).

Sinema refused to even consider the possibility of running for a second term in the Senate, saying, “It’s fair to say that I’m not talking about it right now.”

“I keep my attention fixed on what I’m doing now. And I think my state should register as an independent. It suits me just fine. She continued that politics and elections would follow, adding that she believed it was the right decision for the nation.

She did, however, rule out one scenario that her newfound independence would prompt for some: “I am not running for president.”

Arlen Specter, a former senator from Pennsylvania, went from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party a decade ago. Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, changed his party affiliation to independent a decade later. Frequently, Manchin dismisses allegations that he is defecting from the Democratic Party.

She claimed that her declaration is “less about the moment.” “I need to consider how I can be most productive. How can I continue to be a truly effective but independent voice for Arizona while being true to my basic convictions and state ideals? ”

Now that she has left the Democratic Party, she doesn’t want to be involved in determining how many seats they hold.

Sinema responded, “I would argue that these are not the questions I’m interested in. “I want people to understand that good work can be accomplished with people of many political persuasions and without the constraints or polarities of a party organization.”

She approaches the Senate by searching for legislative possibilities she can jump headfirst, frequently with a Republican partner. These strategies are effective. She used the $550 billion Biden-endorsed infrastructure law she co-wrote with retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) as an example. She is currently working on immigration reform with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), another problem that has plagued lawmakers for decades.

As border crossings rise, federal courts undermine pandemic-era border controls, and younger illegal immigrants still lack legal protections from deportation, that pair appears to be making significant headway.

Sinema described her discussions with Tillis about immigration as “working together on definitely the most difficult political subject of all of our careers.” “I doubt I can tell you where we are or where we’re going. We have a great deal of trust in one another, and I can assure you of that.

Sinema has collaborated with a few Republicans frequently, but it’s difficult to see how a GOP majority would support Sinema’s policy objectives in the same way Democrats have. Under McConnell, the Senate has frequently given judicial nominations more attention than broad legislation.

Sinema claimed she doesn’t worry about how any shifts in Senate leadership will impact her job. She claimed that “partisan control is a concern for the partisans, not really one for me.”