Kyrsten Sinema’s move to independence described as a ‘punch’ for Democrats: ‘No wiggle room’
From ‘one punch’ to ‘not much has changed’, lawmakers and media pundits reacted to news that Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema has quit the Democratic Party to become an independent sunday.
“Democrats are downplaying this, but it’s a punch that has real implications for how they govern and how they campaign,” ABC political director Rick Klein said Sunday.
Sinema’s pivot to become an independent gives Democrats the “tiniest margin” in the Senate “with no wiggle room,” Klein added.
Several Democratic lawmakers, however, have said nothing much will change on Capitol Hill.
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“Look, I was surprised that she made the change, but functionally, I don’t think it changes anything,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mt., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” . “I think we’re going to continue to do the same thing that we were doing, whether she’s an independent or a Democratic caucuser, because she’s going to continue to caucus with Democrats.”
Tester said he had a positive working relationship with her in the past and hoped the two could continue to “do good things” for the country.
“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd took the opportunity to press Tester on why he’s “comfortable being a Democrat in Montana,” noting he votes less with President Biden than with Sinema.
“Look, I’m a farmer too, and I can tell you we wouldn’t have the farm today if not for FDR’s Democratic politics,” Tester said. “And my grandfather and my grandmother told us about it. My parents told me about it. And I will tell you that I will always be grateful to them because I am lucky enough to be a farmer. I like agriculture and I wouldn’t be one without the Democrats.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he didn’t want to spend “a lot of time” talking about Sinema’s decision. However, he “suspected” it had something to do with Arizona politics.
“The Democrats over there aren’t very enthusiastic about someone who helped sabotage some of the most important laws that protect the interests of working families – the right to vote, etc.,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union”. “So I think it really has to do with his political aspirations for the future in Arizona. But for us, I think nothing much has changed in terms of how the US Senate works.”
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Sinema was first elected in 2018, winning a close race against then-Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally, and is eligible for re-election in 2024.
Sinema’s change also shines a light on other moderate Senate Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va. Some analysts thought Manchin would eventually leave the Democratic Party, but former New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie dampened that prediction.
“He’ll never be a Republican, in my opinion,” Christie said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think Joe Manchin is a Democrat, going all the way back to his mom and dad. It’s part of who he is.”
Christie, however, acknowledged that Manchin is “a different kind of Democrat from Washington Democrats today.”
NBC and MSNBC political analyst Cornell Belcher suggested Sinema was a hypocrite for the move after watching an old clip of then-Democratic state Rep. Sinema in 2010 sounding off on how Democrats were “kowtowing” to former Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
“Voters, as you know, Chuck, will forgive a lot of things. But hypocrisy, as shown here? It’s hard for them to get over it,” Belcher said on “Meet the Press.”
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Like several lawmakers on Sunday talk shows, Belcher said he doesn’t see Sinema’s exit “fundamentally changing” Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s agenda.
Sinema said her decision to leave the Democratic Party was “a reflection of her values” and, she suggested, “a reflection of most Arizonans.”
The senator hasn’t announced whether she’s running for re-election, but Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, has reportedly started fundraising to potentially challenge her, and the state’s Democratic Party has accused Sinema of being beholden to corporations and special interests. .
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“I support progressive candidates all over the country,” Sanders said when asked if he would support Sinema’s potential challengers. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in Arizona. We’ll see who they appoint. But it’s definitely something I’ll be looking into.”
Fox News Digital’s Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.