What to Know in Washington: Sinema’s Record Foreshadowed Break

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Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s departure from the Democratic Party solidifies her as a pivotal centrist, a position likely to continue to put her at odds with her former party in the next Congress on taxes and ending the filibuster.

A self-styled iconoclast, Sinema has delighted in bucking Democrats as she moved from being an anti-war activist 20 years ago to a rare centrist today whose positions have raised the ire of progressives. It’s made her an unpredictable, albeit indispensable vote, in an evenly controlled Senate and it won’t change much next year when Democrats hold a one-seat majority.

“Kyrsten is independent; that’s how she’s always been,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. He said she had told him about her plans to leave the party and stressed she would not be losing any of her committee assignments.

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) announced she is becoming an independent.

Sinema serves on the Banking, Housing and Urban Development; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

In an op-ed in the Arizona Republic, Sinema downplayed any possible changes to her priorities.

“Becoming an independent won’t change my work in the Senate; my service to Arizona remains the same,” Sinema wrote. “Arizonans who’ve supported my work expanding jobs and economic opportunity, or my opposition to tax hikes that would harm our economic competitiveness, should know my focus on these areas will continue.”

Sinema’s record ranked her 4th last year in Senate bipartisanship, according to an index developed by the Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. Her middle-of-the-road record could have appeal in Arizona, one of the nation’s emerging swing states where she faces a very competitive re-election in 2024.

But in recent years her moves have frustrated those in the more liberal wing of the Democratic party. Jack Fitzpatrick recaps her path to the switch.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com

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