Can Bernie Sanders Become Senate Minority Leader? Some Democrats Are Looking To Him To Fill The Role
There's no shortage of Bernie Sanders fans, especially now that the Democrats lost big during the election. Maybe friends of yours have argued that he should have been given the nomination to more effectively take on the Republicans. There's plenty of reasons to doubt that, but looking forward there's a push to make him the Senate minority leader. Linda Milazzo wrote for Huffington Post that Sanders is the best choice for the job to represent Democratic values, and she even asked readers to sign a petition to support him. But can Sanders become the Senate minority leader?
It would seem the perfect moment since the outgoing Democratic leader from the Senate, Harry Reid, will be retired when the next set of senators take their oaths of office. But not so fast. There's already another Democrat who has been tapped for the job, senior U.S. Senator from New York Charles Schumer. He was selected way before the presidential race finished last week. Top Democrats had already made up their mind on the next leader as far back as March 2015 when Reid first announced his retirement. While technically there could still be a coup to support Sanders, he has said he will return to the Senate as an independent.
That's good news for Schumer, who is widely seen as the man for the job. He is considered, as reported in The New York Times, to be both a man to reach for compromise and then go for the jugular when crossed. They used the example of Scott Brown, former Republican senator of Massachusetts as an example. The Times reported that Schumer had offered to work with him but then recruited Elizabeth Warren to "send him back to Massachusetts" when he was crossed. We all know how that worked out.
The Democrats are disappointed that he won't be the Senate majority leader, but in the general election only two were turned blue — Tammy Duckworth won Illinois' seat previously held by Mark Kirk and Maggie Hassan snagged New Hampshire's seat held by Kelly Ayotte. That leaves Dems with just 46 seats (maybe 47 if Louisiana turns blue in the state's December vote). Add the two independents, and that brings the Dems' caucus to 48 or 49. While not what they'd hoped, it will still be enough to block most Republican legislation that Schumer dislikes.
There are some areas where he could work with Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan — for example, infrastructure spending or attempts to bring back jobs from overseas. But anything more than that will be blocked. The difference in policy are unlikely to be very large, but there's an idea that choosing someone like Sanders would invigorate the party and the fight to take back Congress in 2018 and the presidency in 2020.
That may be true, but the petition to do so (at the time of writing it was signed by some 300 people) is unlikely to convince the Senate Democrats. They will vote based on their ability to work with their colleague, and it seems Schumer has paid his dues.