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Republicans Take Control Of U.S. Senate, Vt.'s Senators Lose Power

Angela Evancie
With the Republicans taking control of the Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy is likely to lose his spot as Senate Judiciary Chair.

Republicans have taken control of the U.S. Senate and now control both Houses of Congress, and this will have ramifications for Vermont’s two U.S. Senators.

Linda Fowler, professor emerita of government at Dartmouth College, said Sen. Patrick Leahy will lose his spot as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, because the majority party will pick the chair. Leahy will become ranking member on the committee.

“That’s a demotion, but he will still have considerable influence on the committee,” Fowler explained. “A lot of what happens depends of who will be named chair of the Judiciary Committee and whether the new chair and Leahy will be able to develop a working relationship.”

Credit Angela Evancie / VPR
VPR file
Vermont's congressional delegates appear with their wives at the Vermont Democratic Party's headquarters in Burlington on election night.

The biggest challenge for the committee is judicial nominations. There are a number of lower court nominees pending consideration, and those could become contentious.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is chair of the veterans committee, and he’ll also lose that post. Fowler said veterans’ issues are not as partisan.  

“It may be the case that there are hearings to try to paint the Obama administration as incompetent, but there also is a strong sentiment in the Senate that more needs to be done for veterans and so that committee may have a more congenial working relationship,” Fowler said.

Credit Angela Evancie / VPR
Sen. Bernie Sanders is chair of the veterans committee. The shift in power in the U.S. Senate means that he will lose that post.

Fowler said it’s not surprising that a new majority party promises after the election to work with the president.

“That’s standard rhetoric, the voters expect it. I think the problem for the Republicans is many of them may want to work with the president,” Fowler said. “The problem is, the Republicans have a majority but they don’t have a cohesive majority, and there are a number of Republicans in the Senate who might want to be president. So their inclination would be to continue to challenge Obama rather than to cooperate.”

In other words, expect more gridlock in Washington.

“In some ways the democratic minority is more solid for the president than the majority was, and the Republicans will now have to own whatever they do,” Fowler said.

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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