Changes for Leahy, Sanders After GOP Wins U.S. Senate

Vermont's U.S. Senators will lose chairmanships when Republicans assume a majority in the Senate

Vermont's U.S. Senators will lose chairmanships when Republicans assume a majority in the Senate. Bernie Sanders, the Independent who caucuses with Democrats, is expected to lose chairmanships of the Veterans Affairs Committee and a subcommittee on health care and aging.

"On most of the issues Americans feel most strongly about--expanding Social Security, not cutting it, protecting Medicare, creating jobs, doing pay equity, addressing the crisis of global warming--I fear very much that the Republicans are going to move in exactly the wrong direction," Sanders said Wednesday.

Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is in line to be the next Senate majority leader, said Wednesday Americans didn't send anyone to Washington to fight all the time. He promised to work to find areas where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground, like on trade agreements and rewriting tax codes, mindful of President Obama's veto power. "This gridlock and dysfunction can be ended," McConnell said. "It can be ended by having a Senate that actually works."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is the nation's longest-serving current Senator, will no longer be third in line for presidential succession, because he will no longer be the Senate President Pro Tempore. "I kind of saw it coming," Leahy told New England Cable News.

Leahy said he will also lose his chairmanship of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. He said he will remain on that committee as the senior member, however, and will also serve on the Appropriations Committee and Agriculture Committee. Those assignments all directly benefit his Vermont constituents, Leahy told NECN. "I hope it does bring about more cooperation," Leahy said of the shift in the Senate.

Garrison Nelson, a University of Vermont political science professor, said Leahy has been extremely proud to chair the Judiciary Committee. "Every member of the Supreme Court sitting today had to go through Patrick Leahy," Nelson told NECN's partner station, WPTZ-TV. "And still will because he'll be on the committee, but he won't be able set the agenda."

Leahy and Sanders both said Senate races around the country were impacted by countless millions of dollars in negative ads, bought by outside interest groups with no limits, which is allowed by the Supreme Court's controversial 2010 Citizen's United decision. Sanders said he wants to see that campaign spending rule overturned, to, as he said, protect what democracy should be.

Sanders also told NECN he would like to see Election Day become a national holiday, to encourage more voter participation. Voter turnouts varied greatly from state to state this Election Day. In Vermont, the Associated Press calculated that the final turnout figure will be about 193,500, roughly 43.6 percent of the state's 443,400 registered voters.

That figure is eight-tenths of a percentage point below the previous low of 44.4 percent of voters who turned out in 1978, the AP reported. In Vermont, there was no contested U.S. Senate seat this election cycle, and non-presidential years typically draw lower turnouts. 

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