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The White House says it is “confident” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona’s switch of party affiliation from Democratic to independent will not change Democratic majority control of the Senate.
Watch the briefing in the player above.
“We have every reason to expect that we will continue to work with her successfully,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday.
Jean-Pierre cited Sinema’s work “on key priorities of this administration,” plus her voting record of supporting President Joe Biden 93 percent of the time.”We think that partnership will continue.”
Sinema, who faces reelection in 2024, has been a vibrant yet often unpredictable force in the Senate, tending toward the state’s independent streak and frustrating Democratic colleagues at times with her overtures to Republicans and opposition to Democratic priorities.
Rather than assailing the Democratic Party in her statement Friday, Sinema said she was “declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington.”
While unusual for a sitting senator to switch party affiliation, Sinema’s decision may well have more impact on her own political livelihood than the operations of the Senate. She plans to continue her committee positions through the Democrats. Her move comes just days after Democrats had expanded their majority to 51-49 for the new year, following the party’s runoff election win in Georgia.
READ MORE: Sinema received nearly $1 million from Wall Street while killing tax hike on investors
Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre provided an update to Brittney Griner’s return to the United States, nearly 10 months after the basketball star’s detention in Russia made her the most high-profile American jailed abroad and set off a political firestorm.
Griner arrived in Texas in the early hours of Friday morning.
“She has been reunited with her wife, Cherelle,” Jean-Pierre said. “U.S. officials who met her on the ground said she was in very good spirits, appears to be in good health.”
“She was immediately taken to Brooke Army Medical Center, where she is being offered a range of support options following her time detained in Russia.”
The deal saw Griner exchanged Thursday for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout. But the U.S. failed to win freedom for another American. Asked if more such swaps could happen, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that “everything is possible.”
Griner’s status as an openly gay Black woman, her prominence in women’s basketball and her imprisonment in a country where authorities have been hostile to the LGBTQ community brought tremendous attention to her case. Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine after her arrest complicated matters further.
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