Yesterday, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema was an independent DEMOCRAT. Today she is an INDEPENDENT Democrat. As do the Senate’s other two independent senators — Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine — Sinema will caucus with the Democrats. That means there is no change in the 51 to 49 majority in the next Congress.
It does not mean that Sinema’s label change is insignificant. Unlike Sanders and King – who are independent in name only – Sinema has demonstrated her willingness to take positions contrary to the wishes of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
She and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin proved to be thumbtacks on Schumer’s legislative seat. Their opposition was key in preventing President Biden’s humongous inflationary spending program from being far worse that it is.
Once Democrats succeeded in gaining a one-seat majority, most pundits suggested that Schumer had a clear path to passing any legislation on the far-left agenda. But wait! Democrats have only a one-seat advantage. If Sinema and Manchin were to team up again, the Biden program would be one vote shy of passage in the Senate.
Looking at it from a different angle … as a declared Independent, Sinema is under even less pressure to go along with Democratic leadership. That is likely to be the case since one of her stated reasons for dropping out of the Democrat Party was to get away from being a loyal team player no matter how she felt about the issues.
All that may be moot in terms of the next Congress since Republicans will control the House. There is no chance that Biden’s grandiose agenda will get passed by Congress. He can put all those fancy bill-signing pens back on the shelf.
Sinema’s departure from the Democratic Party is not happy news for Biden or Schumer, but they have to grin and bear it because they desperately need her vote on the legislation that will be coming from the House. That is why they are praising her “independence” – reserving the pejorative cuss words for private conversations.
Apart from the legislative implications, there are some significant political implications. Sinema will be up for re-election in 2024. At this point, she has not indicated if she intends to run again – as an Independent.
Some say the shift to Independent status was to avoid a tough primary. She is the number one senator the progressives would like to take out in a Democratic Primary – and there is a good possibility that they could. Congressman Ruben Gallego has already signaled his intention to run in the 2024 Democrat primary.
What happens if she runs as an Independent – opposing Democrat Gallego and the GOP candidate in the General Election. The knee-jerk reaction is that she would divide Democrats and progressives – and the Republican candidate would glide to victory.
Realizing that likelihood, Sinema could force Democrats to skip floating an official Democrat and support Sinema to hold the seat. Arizona – and national Democrats – would face a choice between Sinema or a Republican.
That is if she does not decide to become a Republican. Nothing seems to be too crazy to consider. But if she could be enticed to caucus with the Republicans in the near future, the Senate would again be equally divided … the committees would be equally divided with rotating chairs … and Vice President Harris would be stuck in Washington.
With all the moving parts, it is much too early to prognosticate – but it can be safely said that Sinema is going to be an interesting person to keep an eye on.