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Senate Democrats Begin Jockeying for Power in Schumer Caucus

Image: Senate Democrats Begin Jockeying for Power in Schumer Caucus
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 13 Apr 2015 09:18 AM

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer's anointment to replace Harry Reid  as Senate minority leader has seen ambitious Democrats jockeying for appointments to key roles within the party's caucus.

Schumer's leadership team will determine the party's future, whether that means fighting against or strategizing for the next president's agenda, depending on which party takes the White House in 2016, according to Politico.

Though leadership elections won't take place until November 2016, "jockeying" for desired roles will begin Monday when Democratic Party leaders have their first huddle since Reid announced last month that he would not seek re-election.

Signs of infighting are already brewing. The National Journal reported in late March that Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin and Schumer met off the Senate floor, where each avowed his loyalty to the other — but that reported agreement soon fell apart.

"The two leaders had an agreement to support one another: Schumer for leader and Durbin for whip," Durbin spokesman Ben Marter told the Journal. "Then they shook hands. That's what a deal is."

Schumer's team, via an unnamed source, disputes Durbin's version of events, saying "that didn't happen, and they know it."

For more than 20 years the two men, along with retired Rep. George Miller, were roommates and maintained a close friendship, according to the Journal.

"But their sometimes conflicting personalities and leadership styles, not to mention the constant media interest in who would succeed Reid once he retired, had created a rift between the two," the Journal reports.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray — the No. 4 Senate Democrat — is said to be eyeing the whip's position, though she has not told colleagues which leadership role she would like. Murray, according to Politico, spoke to Durbin over the recess and said she was "in no rush to make any formal decision on which title to seek."

Schumer must also consider the futures of Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a popular progressive who is being encouraged by many within the party to challenge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary. The women have "served loyally" and want to move up in the ranks.

Promoting Warren is a precarious decision, according to Politico, because Schumer must decide whether to "further empower" the far left wing of the party without breaking too far left in the 2018 election cycle, where 25 Democratic seats — many in red states — are up for re-election.

"Schumer, who helped recruit several of the red-state Democrats, has been skillful in promoting their work — and he'll have to figure out how to ensure their voice is represented in leadership," according to Politico.

In juggling the "large and often fragile egos within the chummy caucus," Schumer must also consider the elevation of other "ambitious" members to leadership positions, such as Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, according to Politico.

"There's always ways to accommodate involvement," retired Democratic leader Tom Daschle told Politico. "Every leader does that. I started a Wednesday luncheon that was just the ranking members and the chairs. You've got to find ways to make people feel … engaged and involved."

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New York Sen. Chuck Schumer's anointment to replace Harry Reid as Senate minority leader has seen ambitious Democrats jockeying for appointments to key roles within the party's caucus.
chuck schumer, Dick Durbin, reid, senate, democrats, patty murray
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2015-18-13
Monday, 13 Apr 2015 09:18 AM
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