U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is vying for the gavel of the powerful Senate banking committee in the next Congress – a possibility that has excited consumer groups but put big Wall Street banks on edge.So, how did the relatively junior Brown—he has "only" been in the Senate for eight years and currently ranks fifth in seniority on the committee—come to be a top prospect for a powerful committee chair? Well, retirements have Senate Democrats playing a little game of musical chairs:
- Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), the current committee chair, is retiring.
- Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is currently next in line on the committee. But...
- Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is also retiring. Reed is also next in line to lead this committee. He can only lead one major committee and is expected to take the reins of Armed Services.
- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is next in line after Reed. Schumer still wants to be majority leader someday and becoming Banking chair would force him into the awkward position of overseeing Wall Street, a home-state industry, at a time when most Senate Democrats want to get tougher on big banks. Schumer could take a pass on becoming Banking chair and remain chairman of the Rules Committee.
- Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is next in line after Schumer. But Menendez is already chair of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a gig previously held by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.
- Brown is next in line after Menendez.
Brown is already saying he wants the job, so we could end up with one of the Senate's best Wall Street watch dogs overseeing big banks. It would be an awesome win for progressives and makes holding the Senate this fall all the more important.