Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) slammed Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) on Sunday as a “corporate Democrat” who “sabotaged” party priorities following her announcement that she was becoming an Independent.
During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” with co-anchor Dana Bash, Sanders said Sinema didn’t have the guts to take on special interests while attacking her voting record.
“She doesn’t,” Sanders said. “She is a corporate Democrat who has, in fact, along with Sen. [Joe] Manchin [D-W.Va.] sabotaged enormously important legislation.”
Sinema on Friday announced she was leaving the Democratic Party, a move that enraged many in the party and came three days after Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) won reelection and gave Democrats a 51-49 Senate majority.
Sinema will keep her committee assignments through the Democratic caucus, which will allow the party to keep much of its newly gained power compared to the power-sharing agreement created by the current 50-50 makeup.
But her move now poses a key decision for Democrats as to whether they will still nominate a candidate for Arizona’s upcoming Senate contest in 2024.
Sinema has not yet said if she will run for reelection, but rumors had grown that Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) or another progressive would mount a primary challenge to Sinema.
“I happen to suspect that it’s probably a lot to do with politics back in Arizona,” Sanders said on CNN of Sinema’s decision.
“I think the Democrats, they’re not all that enthusiastic about somebody who helps sabotage some of the most important legislation that protects the interests of working families and voting rights and so forth,” he added. “So I think it really has to do with her political aspirations for the future in Arizona. But for us, I think nothing much has changed in terms of the functioning of the U.S. Senate.”
The Hill has reached out to Sinema’s office for comment.
Sanders is now one of three independents in the upper chamber, although he and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) both caucus with Democrats.
Sinema, along Manchin, was one of the most moderate members of the Senate Democratic Conference, at times drawing ire from others in the party as they attempted to pass major legislation with razor-thin majorities.
She has opposed efforts to eliminate the legislative filibuster, the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for passing most bills, and garnered accusations from progressives that she is cozy with corporate interests as she sparred over elements of Democrats’ massive social spending bill.
“Americans are told that we have only two choices – Democrat or Republican – and that we must subscribe wholesale to policy views the parties hold, views that have been pulled further and further toward the extremes. Most Arizonans believe this is a false choice, and when I ran for the U.S. House and the Senate, I promised Arizonans something different,” Sinema wrote in an Arizona Republic op-ed explaining her decision.
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