While she will still caucus with the Democrats, for now at least, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema says she's leaving the Democratic party to register as an independent.
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is changing her party affiliation to independent, delivering a jolt to Democrats’ narrow majority and Washington along with it.
In a 45-minute interview, the first-term senator told POLITICO that she will not caucus with Republicans and suggested that she intends to vote the same way she has for four years in the Senate. “Nothing will change about my values or my behavior,” she said.
Provided that Sinema sticks to that vow, Democrats will still have a workable Senate majority in the next Congress, though it will not exactly be the neat and tidy 51 seats they assumed. They’re expected to also have the votes to control Senate committees. And Sinema’s move means Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — a pivotal swing vote in the 50-50 chamber the past two years — will hold onto some but not all of his outsized influence in the Democratic caucus.
Sinema would not address whether she will run for reelection in 2024, and informed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of her decision on Thursday.
“I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure,” Sinema said, adding that some of the exact mechanics of how her switch affects the chamber is “a question for Chuck Schumer … 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.”
What it means is if the last two years in the Senate was all about Chuck Schumer about keeping Joe Manchin happy, the next two now mean keeping Sinema from caucusing with the GOP, she might do in order to force another two years of 50-50 Senate power sharing, and even if the Dems can somehow magically defend all their other 2024 seats, we're stuck with Co-President Sinema for a long time.
But the big thing is that it now means any sort of primary challenge to her in 2024 is doomed and would assure someone like Blake Masters would win easily. She knew she was facing political oblivion if she stayed a Democrat as Rep. Ruben Gallego was waiting for his opportunity to knock her out of the running.
Now she can safely say that it's her way or the GOP. A three way race would go to the GOP, every time. Kyrsten Sinema did this to save Kyrsten Sinema's narrow ass, full stop. The caucusing with the GOP threat is secondary if she can't stay in her seat.
On the gripping hand, maybe she's just doing this for the lobbyist cred and she won't run in 2024 at all.
The Independent thing worked for Bernie, and worked for Angus King in Maine. It'll work for her if she wants it to.