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How Sinema's Defection From Democrats Was an 'F You' Move to Schumer

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

There is no doubt that Republican base voters loathe Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Susan Collin (R-ME). They’re the threesome that has perpetually been a thorn in the party's side, but Democrats have their band of troublemakers. It’s only two of them: Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ). Ms. Sinema was a Democrat, but she recently defected. Sinema delivered this bit of holiday news last Friday, saying ‘see ya’ while vowing to do what she feels is best for her constituents. She has never wavered regarding her zeal for service and eschewing party labels when it comes to getting legislation that she feels will benefit the people through Congress. The announcement of her resignation from the party did toss a wet blanket on the Democrats’ Georgia runoff win, where Sen. Raphael Warnock secured a full six-year term, and it placed the Democratic Party in a bind for 2024. 


Sinema is known for her independent streak, having never bent the knee to Chuck Schumer as Senate Democratic leader. In any other circumstance, she would be tossed from her committee assignments, but Schumer said she could remain in those positions. Sinema no longer must deal with the drama of party politics, especially back home, where she is reviled as a corporate sell-out, soft, and maybe too eager to work with Republicans. She might be catching hell on both sides of the river as she’s working on getting through a massive amnesty bill with the help of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). Rest assured, conservative voters are scorching him over this legislation that will put two million Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on the citizenship path and leave the door open for these folks to sponsor their extended family members once they’re through the process. 

On the party politics front, the Arizona centrist no longer faces the threat of a primary, which was probably coming, given the animosity from her side of the aisle. Her defection is a nudge into the ribs of Democrats who want her gone—a dare, if you will. If Democrats find someone, a messy three-way race could hand Arizona to the Republicans, which is why Democratic leadership is treating her with kid gloves for now. In the meantime, Sinema will continue to do what she feels is best for her state, and the country and people will have to deal with her independent designation until the next election. Unlike Bernie Sanders, she will not be caucusing with the Democrats (via The Hill): 


Sinema often grabbed the spotlight after Democrats captured the Senate in 2021, sometimes by blocking key elements of President Biden’s agenda, such as his plan to raise the corporate tax rate, and other times by taking leading roles in negotiating infrastructure and gun violence legislation that gave Biden some of his biggest legislative victories.   

She told CNN in an interview that removing herself from “the partisan structure” was “true to who I am and how I operate” and would “provide a place of belonging for many folks across [her] state and the country, who are also tired of partisanship.”   


She hardly ever attended Senate Democratic caucus meetings even before she announced she would become an independent. And she’ll still working with bipartisan “gangs” outside of the committee structure 

Senate Democrats say they will still hold one-seat majorities on the committees in 2023 and 2024, which means they could issue subpoenas and discharge bills and other business out of committee without Republican votes.   

The White House issued a statement Friday pledging Sinema as “a key partner on some of the historic legislation President Biden has championed over the last 20 months” and pledging “we have every reason to expect that we will continue to work successfully with her.”  

The biggest practical implication of becoming an independent is that Sinema will not have to face a Democratic primary challenger in 2024 if she runs again. 


Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior Obama adviser, on Friday speculated that Sinema didn’t think she could win a primary and by registering an Independent may put pressure on Democrats to support her out of fear that Sinema and a Democrat splitting the vote would hand the seat to Republicans. 

“The Sinema thing is very simple. Her calculus is that 1) She can’t win a primary; 2) If she runs as an independent who caucuses with the Dems, another Democrat can’t run bc they would split the vote and give the seat to Republicans,” he tweeted.  

But other Democratic strategists predict that Arizona Democrats will certainly run a candidate against Sinema in 2024, if she chooses to run for reelection, and predict the primary for the nomination could be crowded.  


Oh, and Joe Manchin is now the most powerful Democrat in the Senate, thanks to Sinema’s move. She put Schumer in a bind on some of the most insane portions of the Democratic Party agenda to which Manchin has expressed his opposition.  

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