With the panel's current chairwoman, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), set to move over to the Senate Budget Committee, the second-term independent is poised to assume the top spot on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Sanders, 71, did not serve in the military and protested against the Vietnam War, but he’s had a seat on the committee since he came to the Senate in 2007 and gets high marks from veterans groups.
"Sen. Sanders has been a strong advocate for veterans issues,” said Tom Tarantino, legislative director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “He has pushed to expand veterans health care, opposed budget cuts that would trim military retirement and veterans disability cost-of-living allowances and co-sponsored the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, which dramatically expanded educational benefits for new veterans."
In addition to the Veterans Affairs Committee, Sanders currently serves on four Senate committees: Budget; Energy; Environment; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Though he chairs a subcommittee on green jobs, Sanders has never chaired a full committee during his six years in the Senate or 16 years in the House.
Sanders spokesman Jeff Frank said Tuesday that his office had nothing to announce, pending decisions by Senate leaders.
"Leadership has not made any announcements about chairmanships yet," Frank said. "Seniority says he's next in line. He's said he'd be interested in the chairmanship, but as of yet there hasn't been anything official."