Arizona Sen. Kirsten Sinema Quits Democratic Party, Registers as Independent

washington — Democratic Sen. Kirsten Sinema of Arizona announced Friday that she is registered as an independent but does not plan to caucus with Republicans, ensuring Democrats will retain their narrow majority in the Senate.

Sinema, who has modeled his political approach on the renegade style of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and has at times disappointed Democratic allies with his efforts to pander to Republicans and his opposition to Democratic priorities, said he ” declaring my independence “from the broken partisan system in Washington.”

“I know some people might be a little shocked by this, but really, I think it makes a lot of sense,” Sinema told CNN on Thursday. “I’ve never fit well into any party box. I’ve never really tried. I don’t want to.”

File photo: US Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs nomination hearing in Washington
Kirsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Feb. 1, 2022.

Al Drago/Pool via Reuters

A Democratic aide told CBS News Cinema that on Thursday Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told DNY about his decision.

The first-term senator wrote in the Arizona Republic that she came into office pledging to be independent and “work with someone to get lasting results.” Political drama. I had promised that I will never bow down to party pressure.”

His office also posted a video announcement.

She wrote that her approach was “rare in Washington and partisan on both sides” but “has delivered lasting results for Arizona.”

Democrats were poised to hold a 51-49 lead in the Senate after Jan. Tuesday’s victory by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in the Georgia runoff election. The Senate is now split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris the tiebreaking vote for the Democrats.

Sinema told Politico in an interview that she would not caucus with Republicans and that she plans to continue voting as she has since winning election to the Senate in 2018 after three House terms. “Nothing will change about my values ​​or my behavior,” she said.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar told CNN, “I don’t believe it’s going to shake things up quite as much as everyone thinks,” but she suggested, “It could change things with Arizona politics.” ” Klobuchar also said that already, Sinema “tends not to go to caucus meetings … except in rare moments where she’s advocating for something she cares about. That’s not going to change either.” “

“It’s not too different from his re-election path,” a White House official told CBS News.

Separately, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Sinema “has been a key participant in some of the historic legislation President Biden has pushed through over the past 20 months, from the US rescue plan to bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act.” From the Chips and Science Act, the PACT Act to the Gun Safety Act to the Respect for Marriage Act, and more. We understand that his 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 hope that we will continue to work successfully with him.”

Sinema faces re-election in 2024 with a well-funded primary challenger after angering the Democratic base by blocking or undermining progressive priorities like a minimum wage hike or President Biden’s big social spending initiative. There is a possibility of matching. She has not said whether she plans to seek another term.

Sinema’s most prominent potential primary challenger is Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has a long history of feuding with him.

Sinema wrote, “When politicians focus more on denying victory to the opposition party than on improving the lives of Americans, the people who lose are everyday Americans.” “That’s why I join the growing number of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington. I registered as an Arizona independent.”

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