Three days after the Democrats secured a 51-49 majority in the Senate, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said Friday morning she's leaving the Democratic Party and has changed her party affiliation to independent. "Nothing will change about my values or my behavior," she told Politico. And Sinema said questions about how her decision will change control of the Senate "are not the questions that I'm interested in," adding, "Partisan control is a question for the partisans."
While Sinema may not profess to care, the rest of Washington will be eager to figure out what this means for control of Washington for the next two years. Sinema did tell Politico she will not caucus with the Republicans but did not disclose how closely she plans to work with the Democrats. "Unlike independent Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine), Sinema won't attend weekly Democratic Caucus meetings, but she rarely does that now," Politico notes.
And Sinema also said she expects to keep her committee assignments, which include chairing two subcommittees, and continue voting to confirm President Biden's presidential appointees. "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."
Sinema already marched to the beat of her own bipartisan drum. While it isn't clear how much her party switch will upend the Senate, if at all, it will throw the 2024 Arizona Senate race into chaos if she seeks re-election. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) was preparing to challenge her in the Democratic primary, and the big question now is whether the general election will be a three-way race.
"I keep my eye focused on what I'm doing right now," Sinema told Politico. "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," and "politics and elections will come later." That's true about the election, but the politics will happen immediately.