Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is pursuing the top spot on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, his spokesman said Thursday, now that Democrats are poised to maintain control of the Senate.
As leader of the committee with jurisdiction over much of federal health policy, Sanders will have a platform to champion his progressive causes, including his “Medicare for All” proposal.
“As chairman of the committee, he will focus on universal health care, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, increasing access to higher education, and protecting workers’ rights on the job,” Sanders spokesman Mike Casca said.
While progressive policies won’t get traction in the GOP-controlled House, Sanders will still be able to call hearings and cause headaches for health industry executives.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the current HELP chairwoman, has said she will be seeking the gavel of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Earlier on Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) said that he will take over as the top Republican on the chamber’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee next year, setting up Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to be the ranking member of HELP.
As a member of the Senate Health Committee, Paul clashed regularly with Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president who became the face of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Cassidy is more bipartisan-minded than Paul, it remains to be seen how closely he would be able to work with a strong progressive such as Sanders.