Sen. Bernie Sanders may have lost the race to be the Democratic nominee for president, but the independent from Vermont was still interested in joining President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet in a role he feels passionate about.
Rumors swirled for months that Sanders, who has long advocated for the working class, was jockeying to be secretary of labor, and Biden confirmed Friday that he'd seriously considered the senator for the role.
But Biden made that revelation after announcing that he'd picked another New England politician, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, to lead the Labor Department.
"I'm confident he could have done a fantastic job. I can think of no more passionate, devoted [an] ally to working people in this country," Biden said at an event in Delaware.
But he went on to explain that a recent development had convinced both of them that it would be better if Sanders didn't join the Biden White House. That was this week's victories of two Democrats in run-off Senate elections in Georgia, which will give the party 50 votes and wrest control of the body through the slimmest of margins -- the vice president's tie-breaking vote.
"Bernie and I agreed -- matter of fact, Bernie said this -- we can't put control of the Senate at risk on the outcome of a special election in Vermont," Biden said.
Nevertheless, the pair discussed working together on labor issues they feel passionate about, Biden said. They will "travel the country together, helping Marty, meeting with working men and women who feel forgotten and left behind in this country."
Biden thanked Sanders for his friendship, something the former Senate colleagues emphasized during their primary battles, and noted that, in Walsh, Sanders "thinks I made a great choice."
Sanders' interest in being labor secretary was well-known. The president of the Association of Flight Attendants told NBC News in November that the senator sought out her support and that she'd happily given it, saying Sanders "grounds his life in the labor ideals of solidarity, equity and leaving no one behind."
But, ever since Biden's victory, there were always questions about whether it made political sense for Democrats to pull crucial votes out of the Senate if they couldn't be replaced. And Vermont, while represented in Congress by Democrats and Sanders, has a Republican governor.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, was reportedly interested in being treasury secretary, too. But the Bay State showed in 2010 what can happen when the party tries to replace a Democrat who headed from the Senate to the White House when republican Scott Brown filled John Kerry's seat in a special election.
“The question for both [Warren] and Sen. Sanders is, what’s the impact on the majority of the United States Senate?" Democratic political activist Steve Kerrigan told NBC10 Boston in November.