Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced on Friday that she is leaving the Democratic Party to register as an independent.
The initial reaction from analysts is that the move won't change how the Senate functions, and that it will have more to do with her possible 2024 campaign for re-election.
At this point, we don't expect Sinema's defection to change the balance of power in the Senate, said Benjamin Salisbury, director of research at Height Capital Markets.
The two independents, Senators Angus King of Maryland and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have formally caucus with Democrats, Salisbury noted. While Sinema didn't say which party she would caucus with, she did say that the change wouldn't change how she votes, and she plans to keep her committee assignments, which is an indication that she will keep her affiliation with Democrats. We think the move is more about positioning herself for a tough 2024 re-election. Sinema, who has been criticized by progressive Democrats for his moves, such as opposing changes to the so-called Carry-interest loophole, was expected to face a challenge from the left in a Democratic primary. She can avoid primary and focus on the general election in her battleground state as an independent.
Her calculation is that the progressive Democratic brand won't help her re-election in Arizona, but centrists and some from each party will, Terry Haines, founder of Pangaea Policy, wrote in a note. There is no percentage in doing anything but emphasizing her independence, and this is a high-profile, direct, and effective way of doing it. Haines said the senator's move wasn't an earthquake for the Senate: Sinema herself says it's not so, that she ll continue to do the job in the same way and there is no reason to dispute it. He wrote that the basic result for 2023 -- 24 is as it was before Sinema's announcement: domestic gridlock, basic fiscal government spending stability, and continued foreign policy unanimity, particularly on China and Ukraine. According to Bloomberg Government data, Sinema has voted with Democrats 97% of the time.
Mitch McConnell praises Kyrsten Sinema as the most effective first-term senator he has seen in his career.
And see: Republicans clinch slim majority in the House, likely signaling 2023 gridlock ahead.
The Democrats have controlled the 50 -- 50 Senate for the past two years only because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tiebreaking votes.
After Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock won over Republican challenger Herschel Walker in their closely watched runoff election, Democrats were expected to enjoy a 51 -- 49 majority in the Senate.
There is talk that Sinema's announcement on Friday may have changed that, but analysts such as Salisbury and Haines are pushing against that view.
The defection of Sinema is a sign of the tentative rise of overt bipartisanship in Congress, Haines wrote. There is an increasing belief that solving issues is what the majority of voters want, and some legislators seem prepared to risk the wrath of their party establishments to achieve it. The DJIA, the US stocks, traded flat to higher on Friday, but were on track for weekly losses.