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Reid Expands Schumer’s Role in 112th Congress

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But the biggest change appeared to be Reid’s announcement of Schumer’s new role, which must be ratified by the Conference during today’s leadership elections. Reid, Schumer, Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), and Conference Secretary Patty Murray (Wash.) are all expected to win election to another two years in their leadership slots. As of press time, Reid had yet to find a taker to helm the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee next cycle, when 23 incumbents are up for re-election.

“People generally don’t want the job. It’s not a good job,” the second Democratic aide said.

In a letter Monday to Democrats, Reid said he would merge his own communications “war room” with the legislative operations of the Democratic Policy Committee, and Schumer will be the chairman of the unnamed joint venture. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) will serve as Schumer’s vice chairwoman.

Reid, who survived a tough battle for a fifth term, appears to be addressing long-standing Member complaints about the Democrats’ public relations efforts. That criticism that has its roots in the health care reform debate of 2009, when Members felt Congressional leaders and the White House failed to explain the plan to the public.

But the issue reared its head again during a caucus conference call held the day after Democrats lost six seats to Republicans. Though they were relieved that Republicans did not take over the chamber, Members peppered leaders with questions about how they would change to help ensure a better outcome for the nearly half the caucus up for reelection in 2012.

In his letter Monday, Reid wrote that he wants to  “better integrate our legislative- and message-crafting functions into a central, coordinated nucleus managing policy, press and politics.” With DPC Chairman Byron Dorgan (N.D.) retiring this year, the committee and its No. 5 leadership post were open for the taking.

Stabenow and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) were widely seen as contenders for the DPC chairmanship, and several Democrats speculated the post would go to a more junior Member.

Instead, Schumer would be empowered to do more, considering he does not appear to be stepping down from his other post as the No. 3 Democratic leader.

Though there are some Members of the caucus who think Schumer might be gaining too much influence, others said they were pleased with the move. Schumer is liked and trusted by most of the Members of the 2006 and 2008 because of his role in helping them get elected when he was chairman of the DSCC.

The decision to give Schumer more responsibility comes just four years after Reid rewarded Schumer’s stewardship of the DSCC by creating the vice chairmanship. Schumer acknowledged earlier this month that Reid had asked him to take a third term as head of the DSCC, but that he declined the offer.

“He’s been impressive at amassing not power, but stuff that translates into influence,” another Senate Democratic aide noted.

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