Like you, I spat a few curses when I woke up this morning to the news that Kyrsten Sinema had left the Democratic Party to become an independent. Had she just snatched defeat from the jaws of our victory and dumped it on our laps? Turns out the answer is no, not remotely. And it’s all a matter of basic math.
Sinema delights in being difficult, so it’s understandable that she caused a lot of consternation with her refusal to tell CNN that she plans to continue caucusing with the Democrats—especially since the Arizona Republic reported that she does plan to caucus with Democrats. But we don’t need to listen to anything she says (and who would even want to?). The only thing that matters is what she actually does, and she simply lacks any real power in a Senate with 50 bona fide Democrats.
Let’s say she does stick with the Democrats—fine then. That means the caucus would have 51 seats to just 49 for Republicans, your classic majority. Among other things, Democrats would also enjoy majorities on committees, allowing them to speed nominations to the Senate floor, just as we expected after we learned of Sen. Raphael Warnock’s runoff victory in Georgia. (For what little it’s worth, Sinema supposedly “expects to keep her committee assignments,” and there’s only one way she can ensure that.)
Maybe instead she’ll do her own eccentric thing and become a caucus of one. It’s Sinema, after all, and Politico reports that she “isn’t sure whether her desk will remain on the Democratic side of the Senate floor,” which sums her up perfectly. But again, fine. That would give Democrats 50 seats, Republicans 49, and the Connecticut for Sinema Party a single solitary seat. Once more, 50 is greater than 49, so Democrats would still have all the advantages of an outright majority, including on committees.
Door number three is the suckiest, but it still sucks infinitely worse for her: Sinema caucuses with the Republicans. She claims she won’t, but supposing she does, that would leave each side with exactly 50 seats … which is exactly where things stand now. In other words, Democrats would remain in charge thanks to Kamala Harris’ role as tiebreaker. Yes, we wouldn’t get those committee majorities, but Sinema would find herself in the minority and would no longer get to run the two subcommittees she currently chairs. She’s almost certainly too self-centered for that, but if that’s the course she chooses, I can assure you she’ll hate it.
No matter how histrionic the Beltway press gets over Sinema formalizing her divorce from the party she’s spurned for years, she’s chosen the most inopportune time imaginable to call it splitsville. That’s because of the kick-ass election Democrats just had, which saw them hold every single contested Senate seat and flip Pennsylvania. Warnock—along with Catherine Cortez Masto, Maggie Hassan, John Fetterman, and Sinema’s home-state colleague, Mark Kelly—all collaborated to render Kyrsten Sinema’s hijinks pretty much irrelevant.
For a determined loner, she’s now found herself in the most perfect place of all: completely alone.
Well, that was an awesome way to finish out the 2022 election cycle! Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard revel in Raphael Warnock's runoff victory on this week's episode of The Downballot and take a deep dive into how it all came together. The Davids dig into the turnout shift between the first and second rounds of voting, what the demographic trends in the metro Atlanta area mean for Republicans, and why Democrats can trace their recent success in Georgia back to a race they lost: the famous Jon Ossoff special election in 2017.
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