Politico's June 15, 2023 ‘Blood on your hands’: Duckworth blasts Sinema for pilot training proposal contains the following sentence:

Sinema, who caucuses with the Democrats, did not immediately have any comment.

US Senator (Arizona) Kyrsten Sinema was a Democrat but in December 2022 became an Independent.

The phrase "Caucusing with the Democrats" has a certain poetic "ring" to it, like Van Halen's Runnin' With The Devil.

Question: But from a strictly behavioral point of view, what specific activities constitutes "caucusing with the Democrats"?

Does it involve things like meetings? Cooperation/working together? Sharing information? Sharing funds or resources? The actual side of the isle that the Senator would physically sit on in the Senate chamber?

Are there any specific activities that would preclude their behavior being called "caucusing"? Voting patterns? Rhetoric? Campaign activities or avoidance thereof?

Potentially related in Politics SE:

  • 1
    There are several related questions on the site, but the only true duplicate was closed without receiving any answers as a duplicate of a related question that isn't really a duplicate.
    – phoog
    Jun 19 at 9:35

3 Answers 3


Here's the description of the party caucuses from Wikipedia

The largest caucuses are the party caucuses and conferences in the United States Congress, which are the partisan caucuses comprising all members of one house from one party (either the Democrats or the Republicans) in addition to any independent members who may caucus with either party. These are the House Democratic Caucus, House Republican Conference, Senate Democratic Caucus and Senate Republican Conference. The caucuses meet regularly in closed sessions for both the House of Representatives and the Senate to set legislative agendas, select committee members and chairs and hold elections to choose various floor leaders. They also oversee the four Hill committees, political party committees that work to elect members of their own party to Congress.

So when Sinema chooses to caucus with the Democrats, it means she'll participate in their meetings. Since she was previously a Democrat, it means little significant change to her participation in this process.

  • Is that all it means? To the question "What exactly does one do and not do..." the answer is "attend meetings" and nothing more?
    – uhoh
    Jun 18 at 10:00
  • 2
    As far as all the partisan operations in the Congress are concerned, she's a Democrat.
    – Barmar
    Jun 18 at 10:02
  • 1
    It's just a term I made up for any of the processes in Congress that are oriented around parties. Like selecting the majority/minority leader, committee assignments.
    – Barmar
    Jun 18 at 11:07
  • 3
    Bernie Sanders is another Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. But he also ran for President as a Democrat.
    – Barmar
    Jun 18 at 11:14
  • 1
    @uhoh Well, she could if she wanted to. If she doesn't, then it sounds like it's just rhetoric.
    – Barmar
    Jun 18 at 22:01

It means that to they get to vote on things that the Democratic party gets to vote on. For Sinema, that means Senate majority leader, committees, etc. For someone in the house, it means Speaker of the House if they're caucusing with the majority party and House Minority Leader if they're in the minority. There's no official list of things someone needs to do to caucus, but the rest of the caucus can kick someone out, or remove privileges, such as how Liz Chaney had leadership positions taken away. There also aren't much in the way of official rules about fund-raising (there's a lot of pressure on members of a party to fund-raise for the party, but it's mostly unwritten rules). Sinema and Sanders do share fundraising resources with the Democratic party.


The goal of politicians is to get elected and then reelected. By saying they are not Democrats, they hope to gain some votes from more conservative voters by being able to distance themselves from the more radical policies of the Democratic party. In reality they follow the party line and vote appropriately.

  • 1
    I wonder how many extra conservative voters Bernie gets by saying he's not Democrat? And how distant is Bernie from the more radical policies of the Democratic party? Jun 20 at 4:15
  • 1
    Kyrsten Sinema has collapsed in the polls since ceasing to be affiliated with the Democratic party and has greatly reduced her odds of being re-elected.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 21 at 1:55

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