You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leaving Democratic Party

ABC News 12/9/2022
UP NEXT
UP NEXT

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Friday made a bombshell announcement that she is leaving the Democratic Party and will be registering as a political independent.

"Today's announcement is a reflection of my values and I think the values of most Arizonans who are tired of a political system that pulls people to the edges and really doesn't reflect who we are as a people," she told reporters on Friday afternoon in Mesa. "I don't think about issues as being Democrat or Republican, and I don't think Arizonans do either. So I'm not really paying attention to people's lists or how they rank things. What I'm really focused on is how I can deliver for Arizonans."

Democrats had held a 51-49 majority in the Senate following Raphael Warnock's victory over Herschel Walker in Georgia earlier this week. However, Sinema's move, while a blow to the Democrats, will be unlikely to change the power balance in the next Congress beginning in January as the Democrats' Senate majority already includes two independents: Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.

"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," Sinema wrote in an op-ed for the Arizona Republic on Friday morning. "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."

MORE: Sinema rains on Democrats' post-election parade: The Note WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 29: U.S. Sen. Kyrtsen Sinema (D-AZ) speaks at a news conference after the Senate passed the Marriage Equality Act at the Capitol Building on November 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. © Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 29: U.S. Sen. Kyrtsen Sinema (D-AZ) speaks at a news conference after the Senate passed the Marriage Equality Act at the Capitol Building on November 29, 2022 in Washington, DC.

ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott reports she was told Sinema informed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Thursday night. In a statement on Friday, Schumer said Sinema would keep her committee assignments, as she wanted.

"She asked me to keep her committee assignments and I agreed," Schumer said. "Kyrsten is independent; that's how she's always been. I believe she's a good and effective Senator and am looking forward to a productive session in the new Democratic majority Senate. We will maintain our new majority on committees, exercise our subpoena power, and be able to clear nominees without discharge votes."

The Senate Leader had defended her as recently as Wednesday, when celebrating Democrats' 51-seat edge on the heels of Sen. Raphael Warnock's win in Georgia.

"Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are great members of our caucus. They are very valuable. They don't always agree with us on certain issues but they are tremendous contributors to our caucus, and we will continue to work with them," Schumer said.

MORE: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema formally censured by Arizona Democratic Party

In addition to her op-ed, Sinema released a statement Friday morning.

"When I ran for the U.S. Senate, I pledged to be independent and work with anyone to achieve lasting results. Over the past four years, I've worked proudly with other Senators in both parties and forged consensus on successful laws rebuilding our country's critical infrastructure, protecting our economic competitiveness, addressing historic drought to help secure our water future, expanding veterans' benefits, boosting innovation and small businesses, protecting marriage access for LGBTQ Americans, strengthening mental health care, and making our communities safer, more vibrant places in which to live and raise families," she said.

"In a natural extension of my service since I was first elected to Congress, I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington and formally registering as an Arizona Independent," she said.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema walks from her hideaway office to the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Aug. 2, 2022. © Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, FILE FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema walks from her hideaway office to the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Aug. 2, 2022.

After celebrating Democrats' 51-seat Senate majority earlier this week, the White House said Friday it expects her to remain a "key partner" on President Joe Biden's priorities.

"Senator Sinema has been a key partner on some of the historic legislation President Biden has championed over the last 20 months, from the American Rescue Plan to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, from the Inflation Reduction Act to the CHIPS and Science Act, from the PACT Act to the Gun Safety Act to the Respect for Marriage Act, and more," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. "We understand that her 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 expect that we will continue to work successfully with her."

MORE: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema claps back after chased into bathroom by pro-Biden agenda protesters

Sinema's media rollout included an interview with CNN in which she said she intends to remain in her committee positions. "So when I come to work each day, it'll be the same, 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 of both political parties. And I'm not really spending much time worrying about what the mechanics look like for Washington, D.C.," she told CNN's Jake Tapper.

In a highly produced video released Friday morning, an opening slide introduces Sinema as an "Independent Voice for Arizona."

(L-R) U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, Susan Collins and Kyrsten Sinema board an elevator at the Capitol Building, Nov. 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. © Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images (L-R) U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, Susan Collins and Kyrsten Sinema board an elevator at the Capitol Building, Nov. 29, 2022 in Washington, DC.

"We make decisions about what's best for ourselves and our families and communities. And so we don't spend a lot of time thinking about is this a Republican idea or is this a Democratic idea. Is this liberal or is this conservative? That's not how Arizonan's think. What we think about is what's right for my family, what's right for my community, what's right for my future," Sinema says in the video.

The video shows Sinema talking directly to the camera in a purple dress, spliced with clips of the Arizona landscape and footage of her town halls.

MORE: How Congress achieved a historic breakthrough on gay marriage

"Registering as an independent and showing up to work as an independent is a reflection of who I have always been and who Arizona is," Sinema says in the clip.

"I'm going to be the same person I've always been. That's who I am. I am going to show up to work I'm going to do my best for Arizona I'm going to continue to deliver results for everyday people. Nothing is going to change for me and I don't think anything is going to change for Arizona," she said.

Sinema's Senate seat is up for grabs in 2024.

ABC News' Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.

AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon