Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s exit from the Democratic Party will have little impact on the chamber’s business next Congress.
Schumer said that despite becoming an Independent, the Arizona lawmaker will keep her committee assignments. That signals Sinema will most likely caucus with Democrats as she does now, which will let Democrats keep their 51-49 majority.
‘She asked me to keep her committee assignments, and I agreed,’ said Schumer, D-N.Y. ‘Kyrsten is independent, that’s how she’s always been.’
Schumer added that Sinema’s departure from the Democratic Party would not change the way the Senate operates.
‘I believe she’s a good and effective senator and am looking forward to a productive session in the new Democratic majority Senate,’ he said. ‘We will maintain our new majority on committees, exercise our subpoena power and be able to clear nominees without discharge votes.’
Schumer’s comments came after Sinema announced her decision to become an Independent. Sinema’s move had the potential to undercut Schumer and Democrats, who expanded their majority within the Senate this midterm cycle.
Democrats went into the election with the Senate split 50-50 and their party only holding control of the chamber, thanks to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. When all the votes were counted, however, Democrats wound up with 51 seats.
The expanded majority was set to give Democrats more power next Congress by giving the party greater representation on committees. Currently, Republicans and Democrats share equal representation.
That reality has made issuing subpoenas more difficult, because in some panels a majority vote is required.
‘Since the Senate is organized on a majority basis, Democrats would have more power over committees and legislation if the majority is 51 seats,’ said a senior Democratic aide. ‘If it’s 50-50, the good news is that nothing changes, but that’s also not an optimal place for a party officially in control.’