Joel White, a Republican strategist who specializes in health policy, said Mr. Sanders might be more bipartisan than some of his critics expect, adding, “I think Bernie probably wouldn’t have become chair of the health committee just to throw bombs.”
Two Republicans on the panel, Mr. Braun and Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas, both said in interviews that they thought they might find common ground with Mr. Sanders on matters like lowering the cost of prescription drugs and supporting community health centers.
And Mr. Daschle said Mr. Sanders had a counterpart he could probably work with: Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, the top Republican on the committee. A physician who helped found a community health clinic to treat the uninsured, Mr. Cassidy was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict former President Donald J. Trump at his second impeachment trial.
As committee chairman, Mr. Sanders said he intended to “take the show on the road” by having hearings in places other than Washington so he could hear from ordinary Americans, such as older people who have a hard time paying for prescription drugs, working families struggling to pay for child care and students who cannot afford to pay for college.
With the recent retirement of Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Democrat who served for 48 years, Mr. Sanders is finally the senior senator from Vermont. Asked how he felt, he said, “Pretty good.” Then, ever combative, he shot back, “How do you feel?”
He said people who wonder about whether he will run again — and by people, he meant reporters — should “keep wondering.”
Why? “Because I’ve just told you, and this is very serious,” he said, wearing his trademark scowl. “If you think about my record, I take this job seriously. The purpose of elections is to elect people to do work, not to keep talking about elections.”