Kyrsten Sinema seems unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge the potential consequences of changing parties just days after the Democrats secured a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
The Arizona senator announced Friday that she was changing her political affiliation from Democratic to independent, a major blow to her now former party. But when she was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper about how her move will affect Democrats’ power in the Senate, she dodged.
Sinema insisted that concerns about 51 versus 50 seats was “kind of a D.C. thing to worry about” and said she was more focused on sticking to her values and those of her voters.
Except, the difference between 51 and 50 set votes for the Democratic Party is not a “D.C. thing.” It has massive implications for national legislation and the future of the country.
There’s a reason that Senator Raphael Warnock campaigned so hard during the Georgia runoff. Even though Democrats already had 50 seats in the Senate, his victory would have given them far more influence in the chamber.
Fifty-one seats meant that Democrats would control committees and could more easily approve judicial appointments. They could block dangerous legislation or investigations from the Republican-controlled House.
And crucially, 51 seats meant that if a Democratic senator stonewalled—usually Sinema herself or Joe Manchin—then major legislation would no longer automatically tank. Now, Sinema’s decision has thrown all of that up in the air once more.
Sinema has not said if she will run for reelection, but she told Politico she also would not caucus with Republicans. She said she intends to vote the same way she has for the past four years.
Her spokeswoman told reporters that Sinema “intends to maintain her committee assignments through the Democrats. She has not ever and will not attend caucus messaging and organizational meetings.”
But considering her history, there would seem to be small comfort in that.