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Senate Democrat says Sinema party change doesn’t ‘functionally’ change anything

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Greg Nash
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) addresses reporters following the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, November 29, 2022.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) on Sunday said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) switching her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent does not “functionally” change the Senate.

Tester told NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd he was “surprised” Sinema made the change but that Democrats would “continue doing the same thing” in the upper legislative chamber.

“Functionally, I don’t think that changes a thing,” the Montana senator said. “She’s going to continue to caucus with the Democrats, so we’ll still have the committee structures that we’ve had before.”

Sinema announced the switch to Independent late last week, shortly after Democrats won a key Senate race in Georgia and secured a 51-seat majority.

The Arizona senator, who expressed a wish to keep her committee assignments, said she “never fit neatly into any party box.”

“Removing myself from the partisan structure — not only is it true to who I am and how I operate, I also think it’ll provide a place of belonging for many folks across the state and the country who also are tired of the partisanship,” she told CNN last week.

Sinema, a moderate lawmaker, angered Democrats earlier this year when she blocked changing the Senate’s filibuster rules to support voting rights legislation and codifying abortion protections.

She also upended the party’s Build Back Better social spending package, which later evolved into the less ambitious Inflation Reduction Act.

The senator was censured by the Arizona Democratic Party this year and would have likely faced a tough primary challenger in 2024.

Tester said on Sunday that Arizonans will get to decide whether they want Sinema reelected, adding that he personally has “no bones to pick” with her.

“She’s served this country well,” the senator said. “The Arizona people are going to have a choice now whether it’s a Democrat, an Independent or a Republican.”

Tags Chuck Todd Jon Tester Jon Tester kysrten Sinema Montana Senate
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