Editorial: A solid presence in the Senate

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

Published: 2/3/2019 12:05:01 AM

In legend and literature, the injunction to “abandon hope all ye who enter here” appears above the gates of Hell, not above the columns that frame the entrance to the U.S. Capitol Building where Congress meets.

To run for Congress and to serve requires hope – hope for a better nation, hope for a happier citizenry – but hope has been in short supply in Washington and across America. The 2020 election could change that, which is just one of the reasons we were glad to hear Sen. Jeanne Shaheen say that she plans to run for a third term.

Shaheen has been in Washington for a decade now, and can be counted on to be the adult in the room where others are acting like children. If she is re-elected, as we assume she will be, she will move up the Senate ranks and be in an even stronger position to advocate on behalf of her state.

Shaheen was New Hampshire’s first female governor, its first female senator and the first woman in U.S. history to become both a governor and a senator. She will almost certainly make history again if she serves for at least eight more years.

Shaheen, a three-term Democratic governor from what was, when she first ran, a Republican state, is one of the most moderate Senate Democrats. She has voted with Republicans more often than most in her party, and she’s skilled at finding the common ground that allows her to sponsor bipartisan legislation.

She is too moderate for our tastes, but she is trusted, respected and effective. She was the prime sponsor of 11 bills that have become law. She is also, nudge-nudge, becoming more progressive judging by her willingness to join Sen. Bernie Sanders in a call for Medicare for all. With Democrats in control of the House and young, newly elected progressive members pushing for change it will be interesting to see if she is a brake or an accelerator.

Shaheen already has more seniority than two-thirds of her fellow senators, and seniority matters. She fills some of the most important roles in Congress as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Appropriations and Armed Services Committees and as one of six members of the Senate Ethics Committee. Re-election will allow her to have even more impact.

Control of the Senate will be up for grabs in 2020. Republicans look like they’ll be defending 22 seats to just 12 for Democrats. Most of the Republicans facing election are in states carried by Trump, but the heartland appears to be losing faith in the president. The Trump effect on the election could be considerable, dramatically so if there are more government shutdowns or the economy tips toward recession. If Democrats take the Senate, having a senator with Shaheen’s experience, reputation for common sense and bipartisanship will be valuable indeed.

In her brief announcement of her intent to run, Shaheen said she planned to focus on health care, the opioid crisis, more affordable prescription drugs, jobs and education. A fine list that also includes combating climate change. To that list we’d like her to add support for a carbon tax, increasing federal funding for research in science and medicine and, in a blow against growing income inequality, tax reform like that advocated by the most progressive members of her party.

Leadership on any of those issues by Shaheen would be a reason not to abandon hope that government can work for all the people.

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