Picking Elizabeth Warren As Veep Probably Wouldn’t Cost Democrats a Senate Seat

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Joe Biden And Elizabeth Warren Address Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference
Harry Reid says "hell no" to Warren leaving her Senate seat.Photo: Chip Somodevilla/2015 Getty Images

This week, Elizabeth Warren delivered a speech at the Center for Popular Democracy that made donkeys everywhere salivate at the thought of her savaging the mogul 24/7 as a member of the national Democratic ticket. But whenever Warren’s name comes up as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton, objections immediately arise concerning the impact of her departure on the Senate. Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid raised the volume on these objections:

“Do you think it’s wise to even consider pulling someone like a Sherrod Brown or an Elizabeth Warren out of the Untied States Senate at a time when Democrats are trying to win the body back?” MSNBC’s Joy Reid asked the Nevada Democrat.

"If we have a Republican governor in any of those states, the answer is not only no — but hell no. I would do whatever I can, and I think most of my Democratic colleagues here would say the same thing," Reid said on MSNBC.

The issue, of course, is that a Republican governor would appoint a fellow Republican to the vacant seat if the Democratic national ticket won, perhaps fatally undercutting what would otherwise be a Democratic majority in the next Congress. 

This objection, of course, only makes sense if Democrats have exactly 50 Senate seats the day after the general election. Otherwise, the loss of one seat, however lamentable, is peanuts if the senator in question is of tangible value to the ticket, as (arguably) Warren and perhaps Brown would be. 

Beyond that, it’s worth mentioning that all Senate vacancies are not filled in the same manner. In Massachusetts, as a matter of fact, the governor’s interim appointee only serves until a special election, which must be called within 145 to 160 days after the vacancy arises. If, for example, Warren were to be elected vice-president on November 8, she could resign her seat immediately, and Governor Charlie Baker would have to hold a special election by mid-April, in which Democrats would almost certainly be heavily favored so soon after a Democratic national victory. Even if the Warren seat wound up being the tiebreaker for control, Republicans would hang on to the Senate for less than three months.

But there’s another scenario that eliminates even this risk: If Warren is chosen as veep, she could resign her seat immediately and force Baker to hold a special election before the end of 2016. Yes, a Baker-appointed interim would deprive the Democrats of a Senate seat in the waning days of this Congress, but it’s not like the Legislative branch is really doing anything of great importance, is it? 

In any event, unless Harry Reid has already had the final word on this subject, Democrats might want to talk him into ratcheting down that “hell no” to a “heck, maybe.”