Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema has announced she is leaving the Democratic Party, diminishing the party's control over the Senate after losing control of the House in the midterm elections.
In an op-ed for the Arizona Republic, Sinema criticized what she described as a "broken partisan system," adding that "Americans are increasingly left behind by national parties' rigid partisanship."
Sinema, who is widely regarded as a moderate, confirmed she would not sit with Republicans and would instead serve as an independent, meaning Democrats will maintain control of the upper chamber with Vice-President Kamala Harris's tie-breaking vote.
"Registering as an independent and showing up to work with the title independent is a reflection of who I've always been, and it's a reflection of who Arizona is," she said in a Twitter video. "We don't line up to do what we're told, we do what's right for our state and our country."
The White House responded to the news by saying they expect to work with her regardless of her party affiliation.
"We understand that her decision to register as an independent in Arizona does not change the new Democratic majority control of the Senate," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. "We have every reason to expect that we will continue to work successfully with her."
With two years left in her term, questions will be asked about Sinema's plans to run for re-election in 2024 as an independent, paving the way for a three-way race pitting her against a Democratic candidate and a Republican.
The move has also raised speculation about Senator Joe Manchin's future within the Democratic caucus, with some predicting a he could become independent or join the Republican Party. Manchin has previously played down talk of a possible defection.