Last Tuesday’s Georgia Senate runoff has taken on more importance as Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced early Friday she is leaving the Democratic Party.
The first-term senator said she will become an independent.
“A growing number of Arizonans and people like me don’t feel we fit neatly into one party’s box,” she told CNN's Jake Tapper. “Like many across the state and the nation, I decided to leave that partisan process and really just focus on the work that I think matters to Arizonans and our nation, which is solving problems and getting things done.”
Shortly after the announcement, the Biden administration reacted to the news.
"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," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. "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."
She will be among three independent senators, joining Sens. Bernie Sanders and Angus King. Both Sanders and King caucus with the Democrats. Sinema has not indicated if she would caucus with either party.
Her departure leaves the Democratic Party with 50 senators, which will still give the party a majority. In cases where she might side with Republicans, Vice President Kamala Harris could break a tie.
While Sinema has largely supported President Joe Biden’s policies, she, along with Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has stood in the way of some pieces of legislation. They have both opposed eliminating the filibuster to codify abortion rights. They also stripped many of Biden’s priorities in the Inflation Reduction Act.
The bill eventually passed, but without several provisions, including paid family leave and expanding the child tax credit.
Her announcement comes just three days after Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock held onto his seat, fending off a challenge from Herschel Walker, a former NFL player whose candidacy was backed by former President Donald Trump.