This piece first appeared in the The Hoya.
The new political season kicks off in Washington this month, as the 115th Congress grapples with presidential appointment hearings, the 2017 fiscal budget and healthcare at the top of the agenda.
To track the big players in the legislative game, we decided to square off in a semester-long game of fantasy Senate, the main arena for much of this policy-making.
We will score the game as follows: 1) twenty points for passing a piece of sponsored legislation in the Senate, with a ten-point bonus if it is signed by the president, 2) ten point deductions for indecency, and 3) ten bonus points for style.
These intentionally vague rules allow flexibility to reward senators for a powerful floor speech or casting a critical vote, as well as punish them for political malpractice or a missed opportunity.
Aaron’s Power Trio
John McCain, R-Ariz.
The newly re-elected senator will turn 81 this year, fueling rumors that he may forego the 2022 cycle. With little to lose, he has already showed some ferocity with his commitment to investigating Russian interference in the election through his chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee—action unpopular with President Trump. Refusing to back down, McCain will likely live up to his old nickname, “Maverick,” and dare to cross party lines this term to solidify his legacy.
Dean Heller, R-Nev.
Heller faces a complicated path to re-election in 2018. Clinton carried his state by 2.4 percent and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) won the other Nevada Senate seat, meaning he will likely have to win over their supporters to hold off a credible challenge for his seat. To make gains with traditionally blue groups, Heller has introduced bills that support STEM outreach for women and withhold congressional salaries if a budget bill doesn’t pass—revealing his ability to identify popular issues and capitalize. Heller appears primed for an active session; expect him to be machine-like in both proposing and supporting trendy ideas.
Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Like Heller, Manchin is serving in a state that went to the opposite party at the presidential level in 2016; Trump won West Virginia by a whopping 41.7 percent. Up for re-election in 2018, the conservative Democrat will be determined to make himself a choke point for legislation proposed on both sides. A Trump favorite--and even was considered for a cabinet post--all big bills will go through him. This clout in the Senate makes him a valuable pick, as all eyes will be on Manchin to see who wins his pivotal vote.
Christian’s Big Three
Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Ever the political player, McConnell will see many opportunities over the next few months to make serious waves as majority leader with a Trump White House. His control over the scheduling and procedure of confirmation hearings only adds to his influence. With these powers, McConnell has Trump’s legacy in the palm of his hand—enabling him to continue to shape political discourse in 2017. What Mitch says goes.
Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
As the new leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, Schumer faces the choice of whether or not to set a harshly partisan tone in the Senate this year. He could attempt to block everything unconditionally, or he could work toward compromise on any number of shared priorities. Also unknown is Schumer’s relationship with Trump, as Trump has both praised and denounced him in the last few weeks. Early signs indicate Schumer is willing to play ball, but either way, his ability to make life difficult for the GOP makes him a powerful force.
Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley faces Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Session and whomever is tapped to be the next Supreme Court justice—not to mention a historically high number of federal judge vacancies. His stock is soaring, as he will significantly impact America’s legal future and make plenty of headlines along the way. Grassley might be the most influential Republican senator whose last name does not begin with M.
We will periodically update our readers with the scores so that they are able to root for one (or both) of us. We are both on the hunt for a victory to avenge our miserable fantasy football seasons—but mostly because the loser has to do the other’s laundry for a month. Similarly, there are many Senators with something to prove this season.
Let the games begin.