Although Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) lost his campaign to be part of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, Sanders still gained political influence as a result of the 2020 elections.
The Hill reports that Sanders is expected to be named the next chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
What does this mean?
The Senate Budget Committee has two main roles. One is drafting Congress’s yearly budget plan and the other is to make sure that the federal government follows the budget.
But, the Senate Budget Committee also sets the terms for budget reconciliation. This is a procedure that, according to The Hill, allows Senators to pass some tax and spending bills with a simple majority, bypassing the standard 60-vote majority requirement for most legislation.
Budget reconciliation is going to be a particularly important tool in the new congress considering that the Senate is split 50 to 50 – 51 to 50 in favor of the Democrats if one includes Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. The Democrats, with Sanders leading the Senate Budget Committee, can use budget reconciliation to push through legislation for which they would struggle to get the 60-votes usually needed.
Sanders said on Tuesday that using budget reconciliation to push legislation through is exactly what he plans to do.
“In the past, Republicans used budget reconciliation to pass massive tax breaks for the rich and large corporations with a simple majority vote,” Sanders 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.”
The question going forward will be what else Sanders chooses to pursue.
Limits on Sanders’ power
One possible limitation is found in the fact that budget reconciliation would require the support of all 50 Democratic Senators. In other words, if one Democratic senator opposes a proposal, budget reconciliation fails. This could stop some of Sanders’s more extreme ideas from getting anywhere.
Sanders, as the committee’s name would suggest, is also limited to legislation that has a clear budgetary effect, as opposed to anything “merely incidental.” This means, for example, that budget reconciliation cannot be used for any kind of discretionary spending.
Finally, Sanders could be limited by the fact that the Senate Budget Committee will have a 50/50 makeup, meaning half Democrats, half Republicans. Leading the Republicans will be Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Let’s hope that these limitations are enough to keep Sanders’ far-left economic ideas at bay.