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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accurately cited a FiveThirtyEight analysis of how often Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., voted with or against President Joe Biden's policies.
But experts said votes don't capture the whole story. Sinema objected to several of Biden's legislative proposals and forced compromises before the legislation came to a vote. And Sinema voted with Biden less often than the majority of Democrats.
Three days after Democrats prevailed in a tight Georgia runoff and clinched a one-seat majority in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced she would leave the Democratic Party and register as an independent.
Sinema's move stoked speculation about whether her new affiliation will affect the Democratic majority in the upper chamber, or derail the confirmations of President Joe Biden's nominees.
Asked about those concerns, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Sinema's new status doesn't change "the complexion of what our Democratic majority is going to look like in the Senate."
Sinema "has voted with the president 93% of the time," Jean-Pierre said during a Dec. 9 press conference. "She has worked with us on key priorities of this administration."
Jean-Pierre's depiction of Sinema's presidential support is in contrast to previous remarks from Biden. During a 2021 speech in Oklahoma, for instance, Biden said Sinema "voted more with" Republicans than him; we rated that claim Mostly False.
When we asked Jean-Pierre about the claim, a spokesperson cited FiveThirtyEight's analysis of how often Sinema voted with or against Biden's favored policies.
That breakdown found Sinema voted with Biden around 93% of the time. Only four Democrats, — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Jon Tester of Montana — voted with Biden less often.
Sinema's 93% figure is in the middle compared with her independent colleagues. Sen. Angus King of Maine voted with Biden 98% of the time, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont voted with Biden 91% of the time.
Manchin had the lowest score among Democrats, at 87.9%. But his support of presidential policies is still much higher than that of Republican senators, whose votes with Biden ranged from 12% to 68%.
"There is no clear definition of what it means to be an independent in terms of voting records," said David Schultz, a political science and legal studies professor at Hamline University in Minnesota. "However, Sinema is far closer to where all the Democrats are and very far away from where most Republicans are."
But one expert said Sinema's voting record is not the only indicator of her support for Biden or whether her cooperation could change in the coming months.
"There's more to presidential support than voting," said Steven Smith, a congressional specialist at Washington University in St. Louis. "Many of the ways in which Sinema stood in the way of Biden's proposals were in ways that of course never came to a vote. Her objections forced compromise."
Sinema opposed changing the Senate's filibuster rule, which would have allowed more Democratic legislation to advance in the upper chamber, and expressed reservation on several of the president's legislative proposals, including a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
FiveThirtyEight's calculation reviewed 59 votes on measures for which the Biden administration took a public position. However, only 23 votes included in the analysis were on presidential nominees — an area where Sinema's support could be critical.
"They exclude most nomination votes," Smith told PolitiFact. "And obviously the president wants his nominees confirmed."
In March, Sinema blocked Biden's nomination of David Weil to the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division. The vote was a "big defeat for the Biden administration," Politico reported at the time. That vote was not included in the FiveThirtyEight analysis.
That said, Sinema has backed the majority of Biden's nominees.
Jean-Pierre said Sinema "voted with the president 93% of the time."
She cited a FiveThirtyEight analysis of how often Sinema voted with or against Biden.
FiveThirtyEight's analysis included only 59 votes, and experts said there's more to supporting a president than casting votes. Sinema objected to several of Biden's legislative proposals and forced compromises before bills came to a vote, which is not reflected in the voting record.
The statement is accurate but needs clarification. We rate it Mostly True.
Email interview, Olivia Dalton, White House deputy press secretary, Dec. 9, 2022
Interview, Steven Smith, congressional specialist at Washington University in St. Louis, Dec. 13, 2022
Email interview, David Schultz, professor of political science and legal studies at Hamline University, Dec. 13, 2022.
The White House, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, Dec. 9, 2022
PolitiFact, Biden wrong about voting records of Manchin, Sinema, June 2, 2021
PolitiFact, No, Manchin and Sinema don't vote with Republicans, Sept. 30, 2021
Politico, Sinema: I simply won't back a $3.5T spending bill, Aug. 23, 2021
Politico, Moderate Dems hand Biden his first nomination vote defeat, March 30, 2022
Axios, Sinema: "I don't bend to political pressure from any party," Nov. 21, 2021
FiveThirtyEight, Does Your Member Of Congress Vote With Or Against Biden, Dec. 5, 2022
Congress.gov, All Actions H.R.5376 — 117th Congress, accessed Dec. 13, 2022
Senate.gov, Roll Call Vote 117th Congress - 2nd Session, accessed Dec. 13, 2022
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