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Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leaves Democratic Party, becomes independent

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Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona announced Friday she has registered as an independent, leaving the Democratic Party. File Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI
Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona announced Friday she has registered as an independent, leaving the Democratic Party. File Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced Friday she is leaving the Democratic Party to register as an independent, a move that could upset the balance of power in the Senate.

"In a natural extension of my service since I was first elected to Congress, I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington and formally registering as an Arizona Independent," Sinema said in a Twitter post.

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Democrats emerged from the midterm election with a 51-49 majority in the Senate with the body's two independents -- Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, caucusing with them.

Sinema had drawn the ire of Democratic leaders over the past two years by holding out against ending the filibuster and other issues that have stalled President Joe Biden's progressive agenda, along with Sen. Joe Manchin of Viriginia.

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"Over the past four years, I've worked proudly with other senators in both parties and forged consensus on successful laws helping everyday Arizonans build better lives for themselves and their families," Sinema said Friday. "Becoming an independent won't change my work in the Senate; my service to Arizona remains the same."

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In an op-ed published Friday in the Arizona Republic, Sinema said she will not change her progressive stands in support of "Dreamers," a group of undocumented residents brought into the United States as children and granted protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or on LGBTQ rights, nor her more moderate positions on protecting the southern border.

"In catering to the fringes, neither party has demonstrated much tolerance for diversity of thought," Sinema said. "Bipartisan compromise is seen as a rarely acceptable last resort, rather than the best way to achieve lasting progress. Payback against the opposition party has replaced thoughtful legislating."

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Sinema didn't say whether she would caucus with the Democrats, like Sanders and King do, but she suggested to Politico that she would not caucus with the Republicans.

"I don't anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure," Sinema said. "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."

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