Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leaves Democratic Party, poised to become first independent woman senator
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said she’s leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an independent, which would make her the first independent woman senator in history.
“Like a lot of Arizonans, I have never fit perfectly in either national party,” Sinema wrote in an op-ed published in the Arizona Republic on Friday morning. “Becoming an independent won’t change my work in the Senate; my service to Arizona remains the same.”
In total, 77 U.S. senators have been independent or registered with a third party. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Angus King of Maine are also registered independents. Both caucus with the Democratic Party, allowing them to serve on committees. Sinema currently serves on three Senate committees and chairs two subcommittees.
Sinema did not explicitly say in her op-ed or an accompanying video if she planned to still caucus with the Democratic Party. A spokeswoman for the Senator later said that Sinema “intends to maintain her committee assignments through the Democrats” but “has not ever and will not attend caucus messaging and organizational meetings.” Sinema emphasized in the op-ed she would continue to support reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights and efforts to lower health care costs.
Sinema, elected in 2018, has wielded a significant amount of influence in a Senate that has been divided evenly between 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats for the first two years of President Joe Biden’s presidency. Democrats gained a one-seat Senate majority in the 2022 midterms. It’s unclear if or how Sinema’s decision will change that majority and the power it gives Democrats in the body.
Sinema played a key role in negotiating a major bipartisan infrastructure bill in 2021 and a bipartisan gun safety package this year.