Politico’s Burgess Everett reports this morning that Senator Kyrsten Sinema is leaving the Democratic Party, changing her party affiliation to independent. In so doing, she is “delivering a jolt to Democrats’ narrow majority and Washington along with it.” Reading Everett’s account of his interview with Sinema, I can’t figure what difference her departure from the Dems will make:
In a 45-minute interview, the first-term senator told POLITICO that she will not caucus with Republicans and suggested that she intends to vote the same way she has for four years in the Senate. “Nothing will change about my values or my behavior,” she said.
Provided that Sinema sticks to that vow, Democrats will still have a workable Senate majority in the next Congress, though it will not exactly be the neat and tidy 51 seats they assumed. They’re expected to also have the votes to control Senate committees. And Sinema’s move means Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — a pivotal swing vote in the 50-50 chamber the past two years — will hold onto some but not all of his outsized influence in the Democratic caucus….
“I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure,” Sinema said, adding that some of the exact mechanics of how her switch affects the chamber is “a question for Chuck Schumer … I intend to show up to work, do the same work that I always do. I just intend to show up to work as an independent.”
Sinema’s timing is interesting. Her formal departure from the Senate Democrats must be deflating to them in the wake of Raphael Warnock’s victory earlier this week. At the moment, I can only hope that it will have some adverse practical effect on their schemes and dreams.
Sinema joins the Senate’s two other alleged independents — socialist Bernie Sanders and alleged Independent Angus King. They are independents in name only — IINOs. For all functional purposes they are Democrats. Everett is unable to clarify Sinema’s intentions — her truth or consequences, so to speak:
Unlike independent Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine), Sinema won’t attend weekly Democratic Caucus meetings, but she rarely does that now. She isn’t sure whether her desk will remain on the Democratic side of the Senate floor.
I believe that Senator Sinema counts several of her Republican colleagues as friends and confidants. The most that can be said at the moment is that it’s not good news for Democrats. To the extent that her “independence” fits the model of Sanders or King, it wouldn’t make a difference. To the extent that it doesn’t, it might. As I say, however, Everett sheds approximately no light on this point and I will go with the former rather than the latter until we have more information.