Drew Angerer and Bonnie Cash/Getty Images
- Despite leaving the Democratic Party, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema says she’ll never become a Republican.
- But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he would’ve welcomed her into the conference.
- McConnell added that the “decision was made” when she decided to keep caucusing with Democrats.
The Arizona senator, who left the Democratic Party to become an independent in December, nonetheless continues to informally caucus with her old colleagues, at least on paper.
That’s why Democrats continue to effectively hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
But in an interview with CNN published on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged that he would welcome Sinema to the Senate Republican conference — but that there’s no active discussion of the idea.
“I think that decision was made when she ended up continuing to caucus with the Democrats,” said McConnell. “We would love to have had her, but we didn’t land her.”
Sinema notably enjoys warm relationships with many Republican senators — often spending much of her time in the Senate chamber on the GOP side of the aisle.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut recently described Sinema’s tactics to the New York Times, saying that she spends “at least as much time on the Republican side, if not more, chatting them up.”
“At first, I didn’t know what she was doing over there,” he added. “But then I figured it out. It was coldblooded. She was clearly setting herself up as someone who could bring the two sides together.”
That deal-making approach has yielded some results, including the bipartisan infrastructure law, a bipartisan gun control bill, and a bill strengthening protections for same-sex marriage.
But Sinema’s developed an especially close relationship with McConnell, going as far as to speak in September at an institution at the University of Lousiville named after the Kentucky senator.
“She is, in my view — and I’ve told her this — the most effective first-term senator I’ve seen in my time in the Senate,” McConnell said at the time.
He later gloated about the “big dilemma” Democrats face as she potentially seeks re-election, given that she’d likely be facing Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego in the general election.
But Sinema, for her part, said just last week that she has no interest in becoming a Republican.
“No,” she flatly told CBS News’ Margaret Brennan when asked about the prospect.
“I mean, I just, I’m laughing because I literally just spent time explaining how broken the two parties are,” Sinema added. “You don’t go from one broken party to another.”