When the Democratic Party released the proposed list of committee memberships for the 114th Congress there were few surprises. Democrats will lose one or two seats on each committee, as expected, while the most established lawmakers will continue to hold sway on the most influential committees. Yet the appointment of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an outspoken socialist, to the Senate Budget Committee is already raising eyebrows inside the beltway.
Sanders is an anomaly in D.C. in that, as a fierce proponent of a progressive budget, he has campaigned for increased spending on domestic social programs while demanding that funding allocated for the Department of Defense be drastically reduced. He’ll replace Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., as ranking member as she moves over to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Republicans still have yet to announce who will become chairman of the budget panel.
“At a time when the middle class is disappearing and the gap between the rich and everybody else is growing wider, we need a budget [that] reflects the needs of working families and not Wall Street and the top 1 percent,” Sanders said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans on the committee to craft a budget that is fair to all Americans.”
Sanders has also come out against the government spending bill currently being debated in the Senate. In a number of interviews given this week, the senator has criticized the bill for doing too much to deregulate Wall Street while also cutting pensions. He has also introduced separate legislation that would raise the payroll tax cap for people making more than $250,000 annually in order to keep Social Security afloat for 75 years.