Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema left the Democratic Party to become an independent, the lawmaker told CNN.
In an interview with host Jake Tapper, she explained why the decision makes the most sense.
“I’ve never fit neatly into any party box. I’ve never really tried. I don’t want to,” she said. “Removing myself from the partisan structure – not only is it true to who I am and how I operate, I also think it’ll provide a place of belonging for many folks across the state and the country, who also are tired of the partisanship.”
Sinema will become the third independent in the upper chamber, joining Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, both of whom caucus with Democrats.
While Sinema declined to say whether she would do the same, she expects to keep her committee assignments—"a signal that she doesn’t plan to upend the Senate composition,” according to CNN.
The announcement comes days after Democrats secured a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
“When I come to work each day, it’ll be the same,” Sinema said. “I’m going to still come to work and hopefully serve on the same committees I’ve been serving on and continue to work well with my colleagues at both political parties.”
Sinema also detailed her decision in an op-ed published Friday.
Everyday Americans are increasingly left behind by national parties’ rigid partisanship, which has hardened in recent years. Pressures in both parties pull leaders to the edges, allowing the loudest, most extreme voices to determine their respective parties’ priorities and expecting the rest of us to fall in line.
In catering to the fringes, neither party has demonstrated much tolerance for diversity of thought. Bipartisan compromise is seen as a rarely acceptable last resort, rather than the best way to achieve lasting progress. Payback against the opposition party has replaced thoughtful legislating.
Americans are told that we have only two choices – Democrat or Republican – and that we must subscribe wholesale to policy views the parties hold, views that have been pulled further and further toward the extremes.
Most Arizonans believe this is a false choice, and when I ran for the U.S. House and the Senate, I promised Arizonans something different. I pledged to be independent and work with anyone to achieve lasting results. I committed I would not demonize people I disagreed with, engage in name-calling, or get distracted by political drama. (The Arizona Republic)
Sinema said her independent track record thus far has delivered results for Arizonans, despite upsetting partisans on both sides of the aisle.
“When politicians are more focused on denying the opposition party a victory than they are on improving Americans’ lives, the people who lose are everyday Americans,” she continued. “That’s why I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington.”
Editor's Note: This is a breaking news post and may be updated with additional information.