Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an independent, according to an interview with CNN that was published Friday morning.
Sinema’s announcement comes three days after Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., won reelection in Georgia and Democrats claimed a 51-49 advantage in the Senate.
Sinema did not say whether she would caucus with the Democrats in an interview with Politico. She said she would not caucus with Republicans.
The two other independent senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, do caucus with the Democrats.
“I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure,” though that’s really “a question for Chuck Schumer,” she told Politico. “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 White House issued a statement Friday saying Sinema’s decision does not alter the Democrat’s control of the Senate.
“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,” the statement read.
“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.”
Sinema supports protecting the filibuster, a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to pass most legislation in the 100-member Senate. The idea of eliminating the filibuster has been floated by many Democrats as a way to move Biden’s legislation past gridlock in the Senate.
She is expected to maintain her committee assignments through the Democratic majority, a Senate Democratic aide told The Associated Press.
Sinema wrote an op-ed in the Arizona Republic that was published Friday explaining her decision.
“When politicians are more focused on denying the opposition party a victory than they are on improving Americans’ lives, the people who lose are everyday Americans,” Sinema wrote.
“That’s why I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington.”
Sinema declined to say if she would seek reelection.
“I keep my eye focused on what I’m doing right now. And registering as an independent is what I believe is right for my state. It’s right for me. I think it’s right for the country,” she said, adding that “politics and elections will come later.”
Sinema is up for reelection in 2024.
Sinema along with West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, have pushed back against some of President Joe Biden’s agenda, forcing the administration to move many of its more liberal proposals back toward the middle.
There has been no comment from Republicans on Sinema’s decision as of early Friday.
In September, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kty., introduced Sinema for a speech she was giving at his alma mater, the University of Louisville.
“I’ve only known Kyrsten for four years, but she is, in my view ... the most effective first-term senator I’ve seen.”
“She is, today, what we have too few of in the Democratic Party: A genuine moderate and a dealmaker,” McConnell added.
Check back for more on this developing story.
©2022 Cox Media Group