Minority senators will have more freedom to needle Republicans and buck their party
This could help a number of liberal senators, especially anyone eying the White House
Warren - who says she isn't running for president - showed this by attacking Republicans on the Keystone XL pipeline
Losing the majority in the Senate was bad news for most national Democrats. But for a few of outspoken liberals – especially those with higher ambitions – the minority may be a bit more fun.
For the next two years, liberals like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – a pair oft-discussed during 2016 speculation – will be able to use the Republican control as a foil for their rhetoric and message.
They will also be more unencumbered by difficult votes thrust upon them by the White House and Democratic leadership. Republicans are now in control, meaning most votes they take will give them opportunities to blast their opponents and rally their base.
This was clear in the first meeting of the new Senate Energy Committee on Thursday, when Warren – who has repeatedly said she isn’t running for President – used her first speech to lambast Republicans for kowtowing to foreign oil companies and business interests by pushing the Keystone XL pipeline.
“I want to know why the pipeline is the very first, No. 1 item on the agenda in the new Congress,” Warren said of the 1,179-mile-long project that would move oil from Canada to refineries in the United States.
After making the case that the pipeline was not about jobs or energy costs – two points Republicans regularly make – Warren upped her rhetoric.
“So it’s not about jobs; it’s not about energy. Why is this bill so urgent? The answer is money, money and power,” Warren said. “Who does this new Republican Congress work for, foreign oil companies or the American people? Today, their first priority is to advance a pipeline that means a whole lot to lobbyists and a giant foreign oil company.”
Sanders, too, will likely use his position caucusing with the minority party (the senator is an independent who chooses to meet with Democrats) to needle both Republicans and the Obama administration.
On free trade, for example, Sanders has already staked out a position that is antithetical to the White House when he wrote a letter to the administration blasting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade deal with 12 Pacific Rim countries.
In particular, Sanders – who is openly considering a 2016 run – has accused the White House of creating the agreement in secret.
“It is incomprehensible to me that the leaders of major corporate interests who stand to gain enormous financial benefits from this agreement are actively involved in the writing of the TPP while, at the same time, the elected officials of this country, representing the American people, have little or no knowledge as to what is in it,” he wrote.
“In my view, this is simply unacceptable,” he said.
Z. Byron Wolf contributed to this report.