Why Chris Christie’s interim pick is more important than you think

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s announcement Tuesday that a special election to replace Sen. Frank Lautenberg will be held on October 16, 2013 inspired lots of questions, including this: Why not save the taxpayers money and hold it in November — when Christie is also on the ballot?

It might have been a politically advantageous move. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin (generally thought to be a Christie fan) probably put it best when she wrote: “Christie has a single theory about his future: Win big in his gubernatorial race. It’s an impressive win in a blue state that will be his calling card if he decides to run in 2016.”

Aside from Christie’s personal stake in all this, most of the commentary has regarded how his appointment, and the subsequent special elections, might impact politics (not policy) going forward.

But over at the Campaign for America’s Future, liberal Bill Scher makes some good points regarding why Christie’s “placeholder” appointment is incredibly important in the very short term:

“Before the October special election, the Senate will almost certainly vote on landmark immigration reform, maybe on background checks, possibly on major nominations such as the three newly named to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau … and don’t be surprised if over the summer there’s one or more Supreme Court vacancies to fill.


Plus, the government’s spending authority needs to be extended by September 30th or else we face a shutdown. The debt limit may need to be increased around that time as well, raising the prospect of another anxiety-filled partisan budget standoff.”

One could argue that, no matter what decision he makes, a Democrat will win the senate seat and Christie will handily win re-election. But it may be that the real action is in how vitally important this “caretaker” senator will be to impacting national policy. This short-term pick is probably more important than a lot of people realize.

Matt K. Lewis