The Republican nightmare has come true: Bernie Sanders is Senate budget chair

As I mentioned before, winning the two Senate seats in Georgia will have huge consequences. Even though the Senate is now tied 50-50, having vice-president Kamala Harris having the tie-breaking vote means that the Democrats have a majority in the Senate and that means that they get to have majorities on all the committees and hold the chairs of them, which determines what measures get brought up for a vote on the Senate floor.

In particular, Bernie Sanders becomes chair of the powerful budget committee. This possibility has long been used by Republicans to argue that they should control the Senate.

Republican fears of Sanders taking over the committee go back to at least 2016 when Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, then Speaker of the GOP-controlled House, said ahead of that year’s election: ““If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee? A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?”

Ryan is, of course, the former speaker of the House of Representatives who is an ardent devotee of Ayn Rand and her ‘philosophy of selfishness’ and who, from his days in college, dreamed of undermining earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare as well as measures aimed at helping the poor. His goal in life was to enable the rich to get richer.

And now Nikki Haley points out that the day they feared has arrived.

“Time to face the harsh reality, socialist Bernie Sanders will become the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. He has vowed to use his position to enact his progressive agenda on healthcare, climate, infrastructure spending, and cutting defense spending,” Nikki Haley tweeted Saturday.

Oh, the horror! Imagine someone wanting to use his power to help ordinary people by giving them more healthcare and job opportunities and cutting the bloated military! She forgot to add that he also wants to raise the minimum wage, raise taxes on the wealthy, and go after tax-dodging big corporations.

The US Senate is famous for its policies that lead to gridlock. When Republicans were in control, they used what is known as the budget reconciliation process to pass things like the tax cuts for the rich. Now they are alarmed that Sanders will use that same process to help the poor. And he is relishing the opportunity.

“Yes, we can and we must use budget reconciliation to increase the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour with a simple majority vote in the Senate, just like Republicans did to pass massive tax breaks to the 1%,” declared Warren Gunnels, one of Sanders’ most senior aides who went out of the way to identify himself as the “Incoming Majority Staff Director” for the “Senate Budget Committee” in a tweet Friday morning.

Following the Democratic wins in Georgia that gave the party back the majority in the Senate, Sanders told Politico in an interview that he has no plans to be sheepish from his perch atop the committee.

“I’m going to use reconciliation in as aggressive a way as I possibly can to address the terrible health and economic crises facing working people today,” Sanders told the news outlet. “As we speak, my staff and I are working. We’re working with Biden’s people. We’re working with Democratic leadership. We’ll be working with my colleagues in the House to figure out how we can come up with the most aggressive reconciliation bill to address the suffering of the American working families today.”

In a tweet on Saturday evening, Sanders himself stated: “When Republicans controlled the Senate they used the reconciliation process to provide huge tax breaks for the rich and large corporations. We’re going to use reconciliation to protect working families, the sick and the poor.”

Of course the neoliberal Democratic party establishment is beholden to the rich too. Sanders will have to expect that they will try and trim his sails and pressure him to curb his ambitions so as to not offend their corporate owners.

Go Bernie!


  1. anat says

    How likely is it that changes enacted via budget reconciliation by one side get undone by the other when the latter comes into power?

  2. consciousness razor says

    anat, #1:
    Roughly the same chances as a regular appropriations bill being “undone.” And in any case, it doesn’t provide them with a time machine, of course, so helping people now won’t actually be undone, even if they do decide to not help people later.

  3. consciousness razor says

    I don’t understand how a minimum wage increase could be a part of budget reconciliation. Can anyone explain? It would be nice, obviously. However, that doesn’t sound to me like a change in non-discretionary spending, revenue and/or the debt limit, which as I understand it are the only things that can be addressed through budget reconciliation.

    I can for example imagine imposing a higher minimum wage on public/government jobs, which is obviously a form of spending; but that’s definitely not the same as making that the law for private sector jobs as well. Anyway, I just don’t get how they’d get the latter through that process.

  4. Tethys says

    I am not sure how raising the minimum wage is part of budget reconciliation, but if the federal minimum wage is raised to 15, all states will have to follow or exceed the federal law.

    If I’m reading this correctly, the reconciliation process is currently included because of the senate republican leadership, so they are going to be eating crow this budget session.

  5. flex says

    @4, consciousness razor,

    The minimum wage requirement will affect tax revenue, at least in theory. And that’s good enough.

    It’s amazing what can be done in reconciliation, because just about everything impacts revenue or spending in some fashion.
    Both parties like to use it because budgets only require a majority vote. My recollection is that it’s been around for a long time and used by both parties when convenient.

  6. Mano Singham says

    Even if the minimum wage increase is outside the scope of the budget reconciliation process, Sanders can still get the required legislation passed by his committee and on to the floor of the Senate for a vote. That would put each senator on record as to where they stand on this issue. Republicans have avoided such awkward issues by never having the legislation come up for a vote at all.

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