Sinema’s exit from Democrats could complicate efforts to organize Senate
Committee representation, legislative process to be decided by Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s decision to caucus with Democrats or Republicans
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s exit from the Democratic Party means one less Democrat in the Senate, which could complicate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer‘s efforts to organize the Senate ahead of the next Congress.
The most important question is whether Sinema, who was first elected in 2018, will choose to caucus with Democrats. The Arizona lawmaker has declined to say whether she will do so, but her plan to continue her current committee assignments suggests that she might.
“I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure,” Sinema told Politico. “I intend to show up to work, do the same work that I always do. I just intend to show up to work as an independent.”
Caucusing with Democrats would be a big relief to that party, as it will give Schumer a 51 seat majority when the new Congress takes office in January. That would give Democrats outright control of the Senate without having to rely on the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s exit from the Democratic Party complicates Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s efforts to organize the Senate ahead of the next Congress. (REUTERS/Caitlin O’Hara)
It would also likely give Democrats more representation on Senate committees. After the 2020 election resulted in an evenly split Senate, Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell were forced to negotiate a power-sharing agreement.
While Democrats officially held the majority because of Harris’ tie-breaking vote, Republicans were able to demand concessions since a resolution denoting how the Senate will be run needs at least 60-votes to avert a filibuster.
That reality gave Republicans and Democrats equal representation on Senate committees, with equal budgets and office space. The agreement also made it easier for either party to put legislation on the floor if a Senate committee deadlocked.
“Since the Senate is organized on a majority basis, Democrats would have more power over committees and legislation if the majority is 51 seats,” said a senior Democratic aide. “If it’s 50-50, the good news is that nothing changes, but that’s also not an optimal place for a party officially in control.”