Arizona Senator Won’t Join GOP: ‘You Don’t Go From One Broken Party to Another’

Arizona Senator Won’t Join GOP: ‘You Don’t Go From One Broken Party to Another’
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema speaks at a hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, on May 14, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who left the Democratic Party last year and registered as an independent, said she is “absolutely” done with parties and will never join the Republican Party.

In an interview with CBS' “Face the Nation” at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University, aired on Sunday, Sinema said it’s “unfortunate” for her state and the country that the two political parties “have gotten more and more extreme.”

“They’ve moved away from that center of working together and finding that common ground and they’re, they’re going towards the fringes because that’s where the money is, and that’s where the attention is, and that’s where the likes on Twitter are, and that’s where you get the clicks and the accolades,” she told host Margaret Brennan. “And there’s an incentive to continue to say things that are not true and not accurate.”

“Now that you’re an independent, you'll never become a Republican?” Brennan asked.

“No,” Sinema replied. “I literally just spent time explaining how broken the two parties are.”

“You don’t go from one broken party to another,” she added.

The former Democrat also criticized the Biden administration for being ill-prepared for the looming border crisis with the end of Title 42.

“Title 42 goes away on Thursday, and everyone here in Arizona knows we are not prepared,” Sinema said. “The Biden administration had two years to prepare for this and did not do so. And our state is going to bear the brunt, and migrants will be in crisis as soon as next week. It will be a humanitarian crisis because we are not prepared.”

A bill (pdf) introduced by Sinema and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) would grant the federal government a temporary two-year authority to quickly process and expel illegal immigrants—a power that will expire on May 11 along with COVID-19 public health emergency. Sinema said the bill is but a “band-aid.”

“The legislation we introduced yesterday is about tiding this over, giving us some time and space for the Biden administration to do their job,” she said.

The bill is also backed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). It would need at least 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, meaning that it’s unlikely it will pass the Senate before Title 42’s scheduled expiration.

Sinema began her political career as a member of the Green Party. In 2018, as a Democrat, Sinema defeated Republican Rep. Martha McSally to seize a U.S. Senate seat that Republicans had held for more than two decades. Four years later, she officially moved away from the Democratic Party, saying in an op-ed that her “rare” approach on Capital Hill has “upset partisans in both parties.”

“When politicians are more focused on denying the opposition party a victory than they are on improving Americans’ lives, the people who lose are everyday Americans,” Sinema wrote.

Sinema currently caucuses with Democrats, as do two other independents in the upper chamber, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine. This allows Democrats to maintain their 59-51 majority. If she were to caucus with Republicans, the Senate would be evenly divided between the two parties.

Earlier this year, Senate minority whip John Thune (R-S.D.) called on Sinema to consider caucusing with Republicans or becoming an official member of his party.

“I’ve conveyed this to her many times. We would welcome her in our caucus,” Thune said, according to Bloomberg. He also noted that switching to the GOP may help Sinema’s chances if she runs for another term in 2024.

“That invitation is always out there,” Thune said. “She’s going to have to figure out, one, if she’s going to run again, and two, if she is, if she is going to run as an independent, and it looks like that’s what she intends to do.”

Sinema has yet to officially declare whether she'll run for another term. A recent statewide poll by Democrat-affiliated Public Policy Polling found that, in a potential three-way matchup, Sinema would pull in 14 percent of the vote, trailing badly behind Arizona Democrat Congressman Ruben Gallego, who has 42 percent, and Republican Kari Lake with 35 percent.