“Sen. Sinema has been a key partner on some of the landmark legislation that President Biden has championed over the past 20 months,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “We have every reason to be hopeful that we will continue to work successfully with her.”
In an interview with POLITICO published on Friday morning, Sinema explained that she had changed her affiliation because she “never really belongs in any political party’s box”. The Arizona independent said it does not expect its decision to change the structure of the Senate and indicated that it plans to keep its committee assignments to Democrats. Sinema informed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of his decision Thursday evening.
Sinema said she had a “good relationship” with Biden. When asked if she wants Biden to run for re-election in 2024, Sinema declined to answer, calling it “a question for someone else.”
His colleagues, however, say they are not surprised by his decision and stress that it will not change the way the Senate works.
“This is the least shocking news of the whole year,” said Senator Chris Murphy. (D-Conn.) in an interview. “Guess what? Kyrsten Sinema was independent before today, and she’s independent after today’s announcement.
Sinema also declined to discuss her own plans for 2024, when she will be re-elected. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) has previously made it clear he is exploring a Democratic primary challenge.
In a statement Friday, Gallego did not mention his future plans, saying only that “at a time when our nation needs leadership the most, Arizona deserves a voice that will not back down in the face of struggle” and adding that Sinema “puts his own interests ahead of getting things done for Arizonans.
And on Friday morning, a PAC that had organized as “Primary Sinema” vowed to pursue her in the general election instead.
“Kyrsten Sinema told us what we’ve already known for years: she’s not a Democrat and she’s just plain independent,” the PAC said in a statement. “Somehow Sinema just made our job easier by walking out of a Democratic primary that she knew she couldn’t win. Now we will beat her in the general election with a true Democrat.
Sinema has played a pivotal role in several significant bipartisan achievements over the past two years. She was the chief Democratic negotiator for the bipartisan infrastructure package last year, partnered with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to negotiate a gun safety package this year and recently worked with Republicans to pass legislation to protect same-sex marriage. .
But the Arizonan has also drawn ire from the left, particularly over his opposition to scrapping the legislative filibuster to pass Democrats’ electoral reform legislation and over his resistance to higher tax rates. Progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman (DN.Y.) tweeted Friday, “It’s not about the party, it’s about your pharma donors! Stop lying!”
Still her decision to go independent drew praise from a prominent GOP-aligned voice: Jack McCain, son of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) — whom Sinema long called her a “personal hero” — tweeted that his move “makes a ton of sense” and is “very Arizona: bold, independent, outsized in influence and risky”.
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.