Senate Republicans are warning that President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE would spark “a fight” if he were to nominate Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats urge Biden to commute sentences of 4K people on home confinement Briahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Sanders 'disappointed' in House panel's vote on drug prices MORE (I-Vt.) or former national security adviser Susan Rice to his Cabinet.
Republicans will control at least 50 seats in the next Senate. The GOP is hoping to add to its majority by winning two runoff races scheduled for Jan. 5 in Georgia, a state that traditionally votes Republican but where Biden has a 14,000-vote lead in the presidential election.
If Democrats can win both seats, they’d have the Senate majority with Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisStefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' Live coverage: California voters to decide Newsom's fate Florida woman faces five years in prison for threatening to kill Harris MORE breaking ties.
But if Democrats lose just one of those races, they’ll need GOP support to confirm Biden’s nominees.
Republicans are already seeking leverage by saying Biden would be better off picking centrists such as Sens. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsBiden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict Senate Democrats to Garland: 'It's time to end the federal death penalty' Hillicon Valley: Cryptocurrency amendment blocked in Senate | Dems press Facebook over suspension of researchers' accounts | Thousands push back against Apple plan to scan US iPhones for child sexual abuse images MORE (D-Del.) or Doug Jones (D-Ala.) for his Cabinet rather than the progressive stars Warren and Sanders.
GOP lawmakers declined to speak publicly about their expected opposition to Warren and Sanders, who are both their colleagues. But privately they’re warning that tapping a senator with outspoken liberal views to head the Treasury Department or Labor Department would spark a fight.
“I had a colleague of mine say there’s no way Elizabeth Warren or Susan Rice could ever get confirmed,” said one GOP senator.
The lawmaker said “it would be a fight” if Biden tapped Warren, Sanders or Rice.
Some GOP senators think Warren could get through because of her credentials. Even critics acknowledge the former Harvard professor is an expert on financial regulation and an accomplished policymaker. Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal MORE (R-Ark.), one of the chamber’s most conservative members, was a student of Warren’s at Harvard.
If Biden nominated Warren as Treasury secretary and the Senate held a vote, some senators think she would easily win 50-plus votes.
“I would not be one of the ones to stop the nomination,” said one of the GOP senators. “They could get all the Democrats and 10 Republicans.”
But there are real questions over whether a nomination of Warren, Sanders or Rice would get to a vote in a GOP-majority Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.) has made it a policy not to bring bills to the floor that divide his conference and has yet to explain to fellow GOP senators what his policy would be for controversial Biden nominees.
“There may be some individuals who have to be opposed,” said Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate facing 4 felony charges MORE (R-Wis.), depending on “what ideologically” the nominee is “pushing.” In general, Johnson said “I give a great deal of latitude to the president” on nominations.
Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (R-Fla.) said “if it’s someone who represents some of the more radical views that we see gaining a lot of traction in the Democratic Party, I think they would have a lot of problems getting through.”
An additional obstacle for Warren is that Massachusetts has a Republican governor, Charlie Baker, who under current law would appoint someone to succeed her. Liberal strategists who favor putting Warren in the Cabinet say the overwhelmingly Democratic state Senate and House in Massachusetts could change the state’s law to require Baker to pick someone from Warren’s party.
While there is usually a “Senate courtesy” extended to fellow senators who are nominated to the Cabinet, it’s not a guarantee of confirmation, especially in today’s partisan atmosphere, when many of the chamber’s traditions of collegiality are broken.
Both Sanders and Warren have proposed a wealth tax. Warren has offered a 2 percent yearly rate on net wealth above $50 million and 3 percent on wealth above a billion while Sanders has called for a wealth tax of 1 percent on married couples worth over $32 billion, sliding up to 8 percent on wealthier estates, according to the Tax Foundation.
They both support Medicare for All, free college, cancelling student debt, and the Green New Deal. In short, they back some of the boldest progressive proposals being floated, which Senate Republicans campaigned hard against in the fall election.
Rice is controversial because many Republican voters and activists believe she misled the public about the nature of the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
She withdrew from consideration for secretary of State in December of 2012 because of the controversy.
Rice said on Sunday talk shows in September 2012 that the Benghazi attack had begun spontaneously in reaction to violent protests in Cairo which were sparked by an anti-Islamic video.
In November of that year, Rice told reporters after meeting with a group of Republican senators that the "talking points provided by the intelligence community" and the initial assessment of the attack "were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi."
Rice said the intelligence assessment had "evolved" and that neither she nor anyone else in the administration had intended to mislead the public.
McConnell staked this year’s campaign message on a Republican-controlled Senate being a firewall to block proposals such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
“You add up things like packing the Supreme Court, getting rid of the Electoral College, the Green New Deal, and Medicare for none and you have a prescription of turning America into something it never has been and never should be,” he said last year.
Some Senate Republicans say that it would be too big of a flip-flop to then turn around and confirm Democratic senators who are high-profile champions of these policies to head the Treasury and Labor departments.
A fourth Republican senator who requested anonymity said “Warren wouldn’t get through” and predicted that neither she nor Sanders would be nominated if Republicans keep the majority after the Georgia runoffs.
Updated: Nov. 14, 12:46 p.m.