The new political season in Washington is ushering in a fresh series of legislative battles as the 115th Congress grapples with various issues such as presidential appointment hearings, budget for 2017 fiscal year, healthcare, cybersecurity and tax reform.
To track the big players in the legislative game, we decided to square off in a semester-long game of Federal Fantasy, in which we draft teams of our top contenders in the Senate and score points based on their performance in session.
We will score the game as 1) 20 points for passing a piece of sponsored legislation in the Senate, with a 10-point bonus if it is signed by the president, 2) 10-point deductions for indecency and 3) 10 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 to punish them for political malpractice or missed opportunities.
We each drafted a team of three top senators we believe will have the most impact on national politics:
Aaron’s Power Trio
John McCain, R-Ariz.
The newly re-elected southwestern senator will turn 81 this year, fueling rumors that he may forgo the 2022 cycle. With little to lose, he has already ferociously committed to investigating Russian interference in the recent election. As chairman of Senate Committee on Armed Services, McCain plans on creating a subcommittee to hold hearings on Russian cyberattacks and recommend further action. By refusing to back down or align with the Trump camp, it appears that this maverick is in top form.
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.
Up for re-election in 2018, this conservative Democrat will be determined to make himself a choke point for legislation proposed on both sides. A Trump favorite — he was even 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 can win his pivotal vote.
Christian’s Big Three
Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Ever the political player, McConnell looks to see many opportunities over the next few months to make serious political moves as majority leader with Trump in the White House. His control over the schedule and procedure of confirmation hearings only adds to his clout. 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.
The new leader of the Democratic opposition in the Senate, Schumer represents the future of the Democrats following Harry Reid’s retirement. Schumer’s relationship with Trump has been a question mark so far, with Trump both praising and denouncing the senator. Early signs indicate Schumer is willing to play ball, but either way, he will be a force in Democratic politics this year.
Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
As the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley is about to see his name in the spotlight quite a bit over the next few months. He is in charge of confirmation hearings for some cabinet appointments as well as the next Supreme Court justice. With a historically high number of federal judge vacancies, Grassley might be the most influential Republican senator whose last name does not begin with M.
We each have three rosters moves, meaning we will be able to replace a dud pick with a new Senator three times over the next few months. We will periodically update our readers with the scores so that they are able to root for one or both of us.
Because neither of us won our fantasy football leagues, we are both on the hunt for a victory —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.
Aaron Bennett and Christian Mesa are both sophomores in the College. PLAYING POLITICS appears every other Friday.
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