From the moment it began to look like Joe Biden would probably end up winning the presidency, he started coming under pressure from progressive groups to put some far-left liberals in his cabinet. Near the top of the list were Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Both of them were darlings of the socialist movement during the Democratic primary race and their supporters clearly still want those types of voices in positions of power.
Both of those potential choices would cause immediate problems for Joe Biden and the Democrats, however. Both Warren and Biden are from states that are currently under the administration of Republican governors. (Charlie Baker in Massachusetts and Phil Scott in Vermont.) If Warren gets plucked out of her Senate seat, Baker will get to appoint her replacement, at least temporarily. It’s already far from certain that the Democrats will be able to take the Senate majority as things stand currently. They would need to win both of the upcoming runoff elections in Georgia just to get to 50 seats.
The Democrats in Massachusetts are looking to change that situation, however. They’ve posted a measure in the legislature that would force the Governor to replace any Senate vacancy with a member of the same party until a special election could be held. Baker clearly isn’t a fan of the plan and said this week that he would veto such a measure if it crossed his desk. (CBS Boston)
There is a new proposal that would require Gov. Baker to pick a senator from the same party as the candidate leaving.
The governor told WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller if it came to that, he would veto it.
“Every time this particular issue comes before the commonwealth, the legislature changes the rules based on the circumstances at that particular time,” Baker said. “It’s a bad look for everybody and if they were to send legislation to change the rules yet again, you know and I don’t say this very often, I’d veto that.”
Baker has pretty much drawn a line in the sand here, so if the legislature does try to ram this through, he will probably veto it. The problem is that the amendment is attached to the state budget which is generally considered a “must-pass” piece of legislation. The Democrats hold massive majorities in both the state House and Senate, so they could probably override the veto and force the law into place if they wanted to, but that process would take time.
In the meantime, if Joe Biden did pick Warren for a cabinet post shortly after taking office, Baker might be able to sneak in under the wire and name a Republican to replace her before the new rule went into effect. Even that would be a temporary situation, however. Massachusetts state law authorizes the Governor to name a replacement, but he also must call a special election no more than 160 days after the vacancy occurs. The winner of that special election would then serve out the remainder of the vacating senator’s term before presumably running for a full term of their own.
The same situation applies in Vermont, except the Governor has six months to call the special election. The exception would be if the vacancy came up less than six months before the next general election, in which case they could hold both on the same day. In either case, the Democrats would almost certainly get the seat back by the end of 2021, but they would leave Biden with even less power in the upper chamber for most of the first year of his presidency.
I think that the progressive wing of the party is in for an unpleasant surprise. Why would Biden weaken his own position in the Senate just to satisfy the Bernie Bros? Biden himself has cast doubts on whether he would run for a second term even assuming that he manages to last for a full four years. He has very little to fear from the far-left wing of his party. There are plenty of other potential Democratic candidates for cabinet positions out there that wouldn’t bring up this sort of mess. If Biden really wanted to start shaking things up he should start offering some cabinet positions to Republican Senators. That would make 2021 more interesting to be certain, though I’m not sure anyone in the GOP Senate majority would accept the invitation at this point.