Sen. Bernie Sanders has recently emerged from the shadows with high-profile fights over health care and Ben Bernankes 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 Im 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 couldnt 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.
Wed 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.
Im happy the leader allowed me to offer the amendment, and Im sorry the minority used me to waste an enormous amount of time, Sanders said of the exchange.
While Sanders has enjoyed small victories of late, that hasnt always been the case. Sanders tried to expand the reach of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to include Senators shortly after arriving in the chamber in 2007, but he did not find any interest even among his most liberal colleagues. Sanders largely kept his head down after that effort, but he has re-emerged in the midst of one of the Senates most eventful periods. He threatened to vote against the health care bill if it did not include a robust public option, the preference among liberals, and brought the issue up repeatedly to colleagues before delivering an impassioned speech for his single-payer amendment last week.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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