The election is over. President Obama won reelection. Elizabeth Warren is now Senator-elect Warren to you. And the prospect of Sen. John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, being named secretary of state looms large. But will it happen?
Earlier this week, I wrote that Kerry needed Warren to lose if he wanted to get the top spot at Foggy Bottom. That’s because a Warren victory over Sen. Scott Brown (R) would have made plucking Kerry out of the Senate with its razor-thin Democratic majority difficult. Two Democrats from Massachusetts are better than one in a chamber that currently has 51 Democrats, two Independents who caucus with them and requires 60 votes to do anything.
A Secretary Kerry could lead to Brown’s return through a special election required to fill a vacated Kerry seat. Brown may have lost to
Warren, but he got almost 400,000 votes more this time than in his victorious 2010 special election. Still, Warren’s strong showing against Brown give some Democrats confidence that a Kerry departure won’t mean a Brown rebound. Some folks think Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) should appoint himself to the seat and run in the special election he must call between 145 days and 160 days after Kerry leaves. I get it. Patrick could win. But if he comes to Washington, my money is on the governor being the next U.S. Attorney General.
Anyway, an interesting thing happened on Election Day. The Democrats increased their majority by two seats to 53. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will continue to caucus with them. Senator-elect Angus King (I-Maine) is expected to do the same. It’s easier to lose a seat when your majority is 55 seats than when it is 53. So, the potential return of Brown to the Senate might not be so worrisome.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is the one who has to worry about all this. He and Kerry have a great relationship rooted in mutual respect. If Kerry wanted to leave the Senate for State (one of the two jobs he has always wanted), it is highly unlikely Reid would stand in his way either publicly or behind the scenes. Therefore, the only person standing between Kerry and “Mahogany Row” is the president.