Kyrsten Sinema leaves the Democratic Party and registers as an independent: what does that mean? +2023

This article was originally published by vanity fair.

It’s not clear how Kyrsten Sinema’s departure from the Democratic Party might affect the Senate majority — and that appears to be exactly how she wants it. The Arizona senator was characteristically reticent about how she will operate over the next two years, though she had ample opportunities to explain her plans in a Friday night Republic of Arizona op eda campaign style Video posted on social media and job interviews With Politically and CNN. She has indicated she will vote as she has since Democrats elected her to the Senate in 2018 and believes she will retain her committee posts, but left a question mark over whether she will vote with Democrats — as fellow independents Bernie Sanders and Angus King do — or drop out of the party altogether. As they put it to Politically‘s Burgess Everett: “I plan to show up for work, do the same work that I always do. I only intend to work as an independent.”

When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper if her move would upset the 51-49 power balance in the Senate decided by incumbent Raphael Warnock this week defeated Herschel Walker, Sinema smiled condescendingly: “It’s kind of a DC thing to worry about.”

Sinema works in DC, of ​​course, and for all her talk of staying above the political fray, her announcement on Friday smacked of politics. Indeed if there is one thing is What is clear about her decision is that she is adamant from the political infighting that has made her something of a pariah in her party over the past two years. Not only could her move weaken the newly expanded Democratic majority, which would have made her and fellow Conservative Joe Manchin less relevant — it also appears designed to stave off the biggest challenge she was likely to face in 2024.

“Last month, Arizona voters heard their voice loud and clear — they want leaders who will put the people of Arizona first,” said Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, who is considered Sinema’s main potential opponent, in a expression Friday over Sinema’s party break. “Unfortunately, once again, Senator Sinema is putting her own interests ahead of things getting done for Arizonans.”

Unpopular in her state, especially among the Democrats who elected her, she was almost certain face a tough primary should she decide to run for another term in 2024. But running as independents changes the calculus: Should the Democrats field anyone against her in a three-way race, she could split the vote and pave the way for a Republican to turn the seat. That means it could be holding the party hostage in 2024, just as it has been holding parts of Joe Biden’s agenda hostage since 2021.

Sinema and Manchin appeared to be enjoying their role as Democratic gatekeepers during those first two years of Biden’s tenure; in the 50-50 Senate, their commitment to filibustering and bipartisanship has thwarted some party priorities and forced the government to drastically scale back portions of its agenda. The Democrats have still managed to pull off an impressive string of gains since taking over in January 2017, a testament to the political savvy of Biden, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. But they have had to water down their legislation to meet the often fickle demands of their two most conservative members. That’s perhaps especially true of Sinema, who tended to publicly dodge what she actually wanted from some of the high-level laws she upheld. “I have no idea what she’s thinking,” frustrated Representative Katie Porter said Last year, when Sinema obstructed the Social Spending plan, Democrats had hoped to get through a reconciliation.

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