WASHINGTON ― Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will both have seats at the Senate Democratic leadership table this upcoming session, after party elections put them in new positions of power.
Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats, was named to a new “Chair of Outreach” position. Warren, who was already in leadership, was elevated to a vice-chair title.
Calling the entire crew leadership is a stretch, however, as the group includes 10 members and there are 48 total Democratic senators. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was elected on Wednesday to be the new Senate minority leader, said he decided to expand the leadership by three additional spots because doing so “shows we can unite the disparate factions of our party and our country. … The team is ideologically and geographically diverse.”
“We need a sharper, bolder economic message about returning the economic system, which so many feel is rigged against them, to one that works for the people,” Schumer said.
Sanders, for his part, hadn’t given much thought in previous years to running for a leadership position. When a reporter asked him Tuesday night if he wanted to chair the DPCC ― the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which Schumer is vacating to become leader ― he responded with his own question: “What is DPCC?” (It will now be chaired by Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow.)
In 2014, Schumer added moderate Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) to leadership to counterbalance Warren’s elevation. At the same time, he said that Warren was being elevated as a “liberal liaison.” This was seen as an effort to undercut her, and is echoed in the title Sanders was given.
Sanders will also serve as the top Democrat on the Budget Committee.
“That is a heavy responsibility,” he told reporters. “It helps shape the priorities of the United States government, and I am going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class, and not millionaires and billionaires.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.) will stay on as minority whip, and Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) will move into Schumer’s old No. 3 slot as the assistant Democratic leader.
The lineup of moderates and liberals suggests Schumer is not inclined to go all in on progressive policies championed in Sanders’ presidential run, but is more likely to pick and choose issues to appeal to base Democratic voters and the Americans who abandoned the party for Donald Trump. He also said he is willing to work with the president-elect in select areas.
“As Democrats determine our way forward, I can tell the American people this: We are ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Republicans ― working with soon-to-be President Trump on issues where we agree ― but we will go toe-to-toe against the president-elect whenever our values or the progress we’ve made is under assault,” Schumer said.