Former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is finally getting his consolation prize. He is now set to become chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. In this new position, he will gain more power over legislative actions in a chamber that the Democrats now control. This could mean that Uncle Sam’s purse strings might be opening more freely.
Bernie Sanders to Head Senate Budget Committee
As the head of the budget committee, Sanders will influence the panel that lays out the terms for budget reconciliation, a process that enables senators to approve tax and spending bills using a simple majority instead of the usual 60-vote threshold required for most legislation.
The Hill noted that:
“with a 50-50 split that will often require tie-breaking votes cast by Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, Democrats are likely to find themselves relying on reconciliation to advance the parts of their legislative agenda most likely to draw full GOP opposition, from more COVID-19 relief, including another round of stimulus checks, to infrastructure, health and climate legislation.”
On Jan.12, Sanders acknowledged his new role in a post on Twitter: “In the past, Republicans used budget reconciliation to pass massive tax breaks for the rich and large corporations with a simple majority vote,” he tweeted. “As the incoming Chairman of the Budget Committee, I will fight to use the same process to boldly address the needs of working families.”
Predictably, the far-left progressive wing of the Democratic Party is excited by the news. Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said:
“Everybody on the Democratic side wins if we pass the most maximalist proposals that all 50 Democrats can agree on. What Bernie Sanders being Budget chair means is that there will be at least one strong advocate in the room for the maximalist equation.”
The leftist organization is pushing for $5 trillion worth of spending on coronavirus relief and infrastructure. Of course, knowing progressives, there will likely be as well an abundance of bacon, sausage, and ham packed in any legislative proposal they might put forward. He pointed out that the amount would likely be much smaller were the process left to less spend-hungry lawmakers such as Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Chris Coons (D-DE).
“You could see a scenario where it was Schumer, Manchin, and Coons in the room, where they’d find things to agree on, but it would be $2 trillion less than what they could have passed,” Green insisted.
While some are enthused about the news, others assert that the Democrats’ slight majority in both chambers might mean that Sanders won’t find it easy to push a far-left spending plan.
“There are things you can do through reconciliation that you couldn’t do otherwise, but if you don’t have a majority that already agrees on the policy, the rules won’t save you,” Molly Reynolds, a budget expert at the Brookings Institution, told The Hill. “The fact that the majority is so slim really does mean that Democrats are going to have to get all their members on board.”
Brian Gardner, chief Washington policy strategist at Stifel Financial Corp., noted that, because the committee is split in half between Democrats and Republicans, Biden will have a hard time pushing through the full extent of his corporate tax increases.
“In order to keep all Democrats on board, including the moderates and lawmakers representing red and purple areas, a tax bill will probably have to be scaled back from what the Biden campaign proposed and what progressives want,” he said.
Will Biden Get His Way?
The stakes were sky-high in the Georgia runoff elections because they determined which party would control the Senate. Now that the Democrats control both chambers of Congress, it will be easier for Biden to accomplish his objectives.
Of course, this also applies to areas that don’t involve the budget. Biden and Harris have some big plans regarding gun rights and Big Tech. However, as Reynolds indicated, the fact that the Democrats have only the thinnest of margins means that there is a chance that Biden may not be able to go quite as far as the socialist wing of the party would like.
Read more from Jeff Charles.
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