Despite her history as a moderate Democrat, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema has become an independent. Her decision comes after her Democratic base in Arizona called for a primary challenger in 2024.
Sinema’s vote for President Trump’s nominees has frustrated her colleagues in the Democratic Party. In fact, Democrats fear she’s split the center-left mainstream and could leave her seat in the hands of Republicans. But she’s also the first openly bisexual senator, and has defied easy labels in favor of a more centrist style.
She’s also a key architect of a recent Senate agreement. She was part of a group of senators who negotiated a $550 billion infrastructure bill last year. Currently, she sits on the Commerce, Science & Transportation, Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, and Aviation Safety committees. It appears she will caucus with the Democrats to keep those positions.
She was also a central negotiator on several major bills during the 117th Congress. The marriage equality bill, for example, had a religious liberty clause drafted by Sinema and a few other senators. She has also worked on immigration reform.
Although she’s never been a Republican, many progressives believe her approach to legislation is “inauthentic”. She’s criticized Democratic leaders for their lack of progress on a wide range of issues, from healthcare to climate change to the ongoing refugee crisis.
Many believe she’s modeled her political style after former GOP Sen. John McCain, who also served Arizona. She has worked with Republicans and Democrats, and she generally has a collaborative relationship with both.
The Democrats thin majority in the Senate seems even more tenuous with this announcement.