Bernie Sanders Will Lead Senate Outreach Committee

by Alex Gladu

The Bern is back. After running a highly talked-about-but-unsuccessful primary campaign, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders seems to have found a silver lining: Sanders will serve as the chair of outreach for the Senate, earning a leadership role within the Democratic Party for the upcoming session.

Senate Democrats announced their leadership team on Wednesday, after a series of elections that seemed much less eventful or surprising than last week's. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York — also known as the senator who worked with his relative, Amy Schumer, on a gun control proposal last year — was elected Senate minority leader. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois was elected as the minority whip. Then, there was Sanders' new position.

The chair of outreach is a member of the small Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. According to the committee's website, it focuses on "fostering dialogue between Senate Democrats and leaders from across the nation." Members of the committee serve as liaisons between Senate Democrats and the advocacy groups and intergovernmental organizations that want to work with them. Given this description, the committee seems like a winning position for Sanders, who dramatically altered the Democratic dialogue that came out of the presidential campaign earlier this year.

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Although he's registered as an independent, Sanders has held important positions within the Senate's Democratic coalition before. For instance, he has previously served on the ever-important Senate Budget Committee and the Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Sanders will reportedly remain registered as an independent in the next session, but he appears to be moving up the Democratic Party's ranks with this new position.

The Steering and Outreach Committee, by its own description, helps to set the Democratic Party's agenda in the Senate. That agenda could be particularly important moving forward after last week's elections, as Democrats face Republican majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Not to mention, there will soon be a Republican in the White House. It would seem that Sanders' influential presidential primary campaign left an impression on Senate Democrats, who now apparently want the Vermont independent to officially help guide their party's approach to the next session.

What could a Sanders-inspired Democratic agenda look like? The former presidential candidate hinted on Twitter that he'd look to incorporate the grassroots influences that helped spread his campaign message into his work in the Senate. He'll have an uphill battle with Republicans maintaining their control, but ultimately Wednesday's vote in the Senate could give Democratic voters another reason to feel the Bern.