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Sinema's switch to independent driven by ‘political aspirations,’ Sen. Bernie Sanders says

“I happen to suspect that it’s probably a lot to do with politics back in Arizona," said the Vermont progressive. “She is a corporate Democrat who has, in fact, along with Sen. Manchin, sabotaged enormously important legislation."
Image: Kyrsten Sinema
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., at a Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing in Washington on Sept. 14.Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s decision to leave the Democratic Party was driven by “political aspirations for the future in Arizona," Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday.

“I happen to suspect that it’s probably a lot to do with politics back in Arizona," Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union." "I think the Democrats there are not all that enthusiastic about somebody who helped sabotage some of the most important legislation that protects the interests of working families and voting rights and so forth."

Along with fellow centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Sinema held strong negotiating power over Democratic priorities in the evenly divided Senate. “She is a corporate Democrat who has, in fact along with Senator Manchin, sabotaged enormously important legislation,” Sanders said.

Sinema announced that she will register as an independent just days after Democrats reached a 51-49 Senate majority following Sen. Raphael Warnock’s victory in the Georgia runoff election, which expanded the party's narrowest of majorities.

However, she has said she intends to keep the committee seats Democrats assigned to her, meaning the party will still have a clear majority and full control of committees, a Democratic leadership aide said.

In a recent interview on CNN, Sinema said she doesn’t want to “be tethered by the partisanship that dominates politics today.”

“I think Americans are tired of it. I think Arizonans are tired of it,” she said. “The national political parties have pulled our politics farther to the edges than I have ever seen.”

Sinema added, “I want to remove some of that kind of — that poison from our politics.”

While some Democratic senators have criticized Sinema's decision, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., shared a less critical view of her move on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

“I had a good experience working with Kyrsten on a number of different topics, especially the bipartisan infrastructure package,” Tester said, adding that he doesn't think it matters whether Sinema is a Democrat or a Republican as long as she “wants to get things" in Congress.