Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s announcement in December that she was leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an independent resulted in a Senate shake-up and prompted a restrained response from her former Democratic colleagues on whether they would support her if she runs for a second term.
While many Senate Democrats have remained mum about Sinema or her intentions, she has been anything but quiet, according to a new piece in Politico.
In both public and private, Sinema has allegedly “belittle[d] her Democratic colleagues” and “shower[ed] her GOP allies with praise” in an effort to stockpile campaign cash, much to the delight of “Republican lawmakers, lobbyists, and donors,” writes Jonathan Martin, Politico’s senior political columnist and politics bureau chief in the piece published Thursday.
“Those lunches were ridiculous,” Sinema reportedly told GOP lobbyists at a reception in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, according to an attendee. She was explaining why she stopped attended weekly luncheons with her caucus.
Sinema then made her stance more clear. “I’m not caucusing with the Democrats, I’m formally aligned with the Democrats for committee purposes. But apart from that I am not a part of the caucus,” she said, according to the story.
She has reportedly made comments at a series of Republican receptions and retreats this year. But in private, according to the column, Sinema has been “even more cutting,” with her most critical comments aimed at Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, senior Republican officials told Martin.
At the same event where she explained that she was no longer a Democrat, Sinema also reportedly derided her former colleagues and continued to blast the luncheons. The crowd reportedly burst into laughter in response.
“Old dudes are eating Jell-O, everyone is talking about how great they are. I don’t really need to be there for that,” Sinema said, according to Politico. “That’s an hour and a half twice a week that I can get back.”
Sinema also reportedly made snide remarks about the White House at the same event.
She recounted how she was able to get a federal judge from Arizona confirmed despite the Senate being divided. Sinema said a White House aide told her she would have to make sure all 50 Senate Democrats were present for the vote, to which she responded that there was no need to worry. The vote, she said, would be bipartisan.
With a flash of her middle finger in the air, according to the column, Sinema then revealed the name of the aide: “That was Klain,” referring to Ron Klain, the former White House chief of staff.
“I did not call Ron back,” she added.
In turn, her open mockery of Democrats has apparently spurred hope among Republicans that Sinema could be convinced to caucus with the GOP — either while serving this term or if she is reelected as an independent. Her approach has also likely made it more complicated for her to remain part of the Democratic Party in any form.
So far this year, Sinema has raised a significant amount of money from the finance industry in New York and corporate lobbyists in Washington, D.C., according to the piece.
She also hailed her relationships with Republican senators including Maine Senator Susan Collins and North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis while at a conservative think tank’s conference in Georgia earlier this month. But Sinema dodged questions about her political future, according to the column.
Some of Sinema’s friends said they believe she’s more likely to retire than risk losing in Arizona, according to the column. Sinema’s office could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday morning.
Shannon Larson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.