Sen. Sinema Shakes Up the Senate by Becoming an Independent

As the saying goes “If you don’t like the weather in Maine, wait a minute and it will change.”  That now seems to apply to the political situation in Washington.  Just three days after voters in Georgia re-elected Ralph Warnock and gave the Democrats a 51-49 margin in the Senate, Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema announced she was becoming an independent. 

“I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington. I registered as an Arizona independent."  (Sen. Krysten Sinema)

Democrats will now hold a 50-49-1 margin.  What that means operationally remains to be seen, but at times it could prove critical.  On certain votes and issues where Sinema is aligned with Republicans, the Senate is back to a 50-50 split. 

The House of Representatives had a productive and historic day yesterday.  First, the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that codifies same-sex marriage.  The bill had already passed the Senate so will now go to the President’s desk for signature.  39 Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the measure.  It is a big achievement in the Lame Duck session.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) delayed the vote in the Senate until after the midterm elections.  It was a risk – some Democrats argued he should have forced the vote and made it an issue in the election where a solid majority of voters support same-sex marriage.  But he decided to wait with the hope that in the Lame Duck Congress could make actual law.  His bet paid off. 

The House also passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with over two-thirds of the House supporting the measure.  The NDAA is one of the “must do” measures in the Lame Duck and the strong support in the house indicates the bill will also pass the Senate.  Progress on the other must-do item – an omnibus spending bill, however, remains slow.  Not much got done this week.  Government funding runs out a week from today.  Congress is certain to need to pass another short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open and give negotiators more time to reach the elusive agreement.


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