Washington: On Friday, U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said she is leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an independent, in an announcement just days after Democrats won a Senate race in Georgia to secure 51 seats in the 100-member chamber.
“Like a lot of Arizonans, I have never fit perfectly in either national party,” Sinema said in an article for the Arizona Republic newspaper.
Sinema intends to keep up her committee assignments from the Democrats, an aide told the media. The aide would not say whether Sinema would continue to caucus with Democrats.
Sinema herself, nonetheless, said she would not caucus with the Republican Party, according to an interview published by Politico on Friday. If that holds, Democrats could still maintain greater governing control in the closely divided chamber. Sinema and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin have kept Washington in suspense over the last two years as they repeatedly have withheld their needed votes for legislative initiatives sought by President Joe Biden.
At the same time, they have worked in a bipartisan way on high-profile bills that have become law. Just this week, Sinema and Republican Senator Thom Tillis unveiled an immigration reform plan that is getting attention in the Senate.
In the Arizona Republic article, Sinema described her disillusionment with what she described as a rigid two-party system that encourages partisanship over independence.
“I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington. I registered as an Arizona independent,” Sinema wrote.
Democrats had held the Senate 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris holding a tie-breaking vote. U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock’s victory in Tuesday’s run-off election in Georgia had handed them their 51st seat. Two other current senators – Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine – are enrolled independents but caucus with Democrats.
On Friday, Sinema said her shift came as a growing number of people in her Western U.S. state were also declaring themselves politically independent, rejecting both the Republican and Democratic political labels.
“We don’t line up to do what we’re told, automatically subscribe to whatever positions the national political parties dictate, or view every issue through labels that divide us,” she wrote.