Aug. 20, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Sanders Returns to His Outspoken House Ways

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Sen. Bernie Sanders has recently emerged from the shadows with high-profile fights over health care and Ben Bernanke’s confirmation at the Federal Reserve.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who proudly served as agitator-in-chief during his years in the House, seems ready to reprise that role after just two years in the Senate.

Just last week, the self-described Democratic Socialist earned debate time and a potential vote on an unlikely amendment calling for a single-payer health care system. The same day, Sanders launched an effort to stop Ben Bernanke from being approved to a second term as head of the Federal Reserve.

“For me personally, for many years when I was in the House I was in the minority. Now I’m an Independent who caucuses with the majority party, so by definition I have more influence,” Sanders, elected to the Senate in 2006, said in an interview.

“So if your question is, ‘Can you do things in the United States Senate you couldn’t do in the House?’ Absolutely,” he added.

As is the case with most freshman Senators, Sanders spent his first two years in the Senate working quietly behind the scenes. But in recent months, he seems to have returned to his outspoken roots, waging fights on several fronts. In many ways, he has followed a path forged by his ideological polar opposite, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), an equally aggressive Member whose tactics regularly cause heartburn among colleagues.

“We’d be the best of friends if we thought similarly,” said Coburn, whose tenure in the House overlapped with Sanders’. “We just happen to be 180 degrees apart.”

Ironically, it was Coburn who helped shut down Sanders’ unlikely single-payer amendment last week by calling for its 400 pages to be read on the floor, a process that could have taken eight to 12 hours. What was a largely symbolic effort quickly turned into a potentially disastrous hurdle for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to overcome as he races to pass health care before Christmas.

Sanders eventually withdrew his amendment.

“I’m happy the leader allowed me to offer the amendment, and I’m sorry the minority used me to waste an enormous amount of time,” Sanders said of the exchange.

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