White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre indicated that the Biden administration does not think Sinema’s decision will affect the upper chamber, particularly after the new Congress begins in January 2023.
“Senator Sinema has been a key partner on some of the historic legislation President Biden has championed over the last 20 months,” including the Inflation Reduction Act, Jean-Pierre said in a brief 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,” Jean-Pierre added.
President Joe Biden has not yet reacted to the change.
Sinema, 46, announced hours earlier that she was becoming an independent.
“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,” said Sinema, who moved from the Green Party to the Democrat Party in 2004 and has remained a Democrat since entering Congress in 2013.
Shift in Senate
The biggest shift is immediate due to the Senate’s makeup.
Before Sinema’s change, Democrats or independents who caucus with Democrats—including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has run multiple times for the Democrat presidential nomination—held 50 seats. Republicans held the other 50.
If Sinema chooses not to caucus with Democrats, that gives the GOP the upper hand for the next several weeks. Sinema has told news outlets that she’s not going to caucus with the GOP but that she may not caucus with Democrats. She told Politico that she will not attend the weekly Democrat caucus meetings.
If Sinema becomes a true independent, the Senate will shift to 5o–49–1.
That changes in January 2023, because Democrats picked up a seat in the midterm elections and held onto all their seats, including the one held by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). The makeup would be 51–49 or 50–49–1.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), who along with Sinema has helped block some of the more radical Democrat proposals, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sinema’s move. Manchin reportedly told top Republicans that he would switch to the GOP if it didn’t make Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the majority leader.
Manchin didn’t deny the account, which was in a book, but told CNN that “we talk all the time, we have dinners together and … they’re always kidding back and forth.”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), one of the Republicans, told Politico that Manchin’s comment was taken “in the good humor it was intended,” describing it as “banter” and part of a “light spirited conversation.”
Sinema’s decision could also have ramifications for 2024.
Sinema, who won the Arizona seat with 50 percent of the vote in 2018, will have to win another race then to stay in office.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) has said that he’s been encouraged to challenge Sinema, but that he would think hard about launching a bid, after deciding against doing so in both 2018 and 2020.
“I care about the Arizona Democratic Party. I have done everything, some of the hardest time, to keep this party alive. But I’m not going to do something that’s going to harm the Democratic Party,” Gallego said on a podcast.
Gallego said that Sinema is “all about herself” and “doesn’t care about the Democratic movement.”
Gallego later said that key Democrat wins in Arizona in the midterms were due to Democrats such as himself campaigning and raising money.
“We fought as a team in Arizona, and we won. Sen. Sinema was nowhere to be found—at all,” he said during an appearance on MSNBC.
Democrats will face a tougher battle to keep the Senate majority in 2024, defending 23 seats, including Sinema’s. Republicans have to defend just 10. Additionally, among the Democrat-held seats up for election are seats in West Virginia, a red state, and battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Nevada.
Democrats retained control of the Senate in the midterms by winning close races in Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia, and flipping a Pennsylvania seat that is held by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
From The Epoch Times