Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Monday a plan to cede much of the control over the Democratic Conference’s message operations to Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.).
In a letter to colleagues Monday afternoon, Reid explained the need to “better integrate our legislative- and message-crafting functions into a central, coordinated nucleus managing policy, press and politics.”
To do that, Reid said he would merge the Democratic Policy Committee, which generates policy papers for Senators, and his own communications war room, also known as the Senate Democratic Communications Center, into a joint operation. The new entity will be chaired by Schumer, with Stabenow serving as vice chairwoman, the letter said. It was unclear what the new joint operation would be named.
In assuming the role, Schumer does not appear to be stepping down as vice chairman of the Democratic Conference — the No. 3 spot in the party’s leadership — but it was unclear if he would have two leadership titles.
Reid said he has asked Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) to replace Stabenow as chairman of the Steering and Outreach Committee, which helps dole out committee assignments and leads outreach to independent interest groups.
“I look forward to discussing these plans with you during tomorrow’s caucus meeting. Whatever changes we make, our charge remains the same: coordinating our caucus as effectively as possible so we can accomplish our number-one responsibility: getting people back to work,” Reid wrote.
The changes at the Democratic Policy Committee have been in the works for almost a year, after rank-and-file lawmakers agitated for better-coordinated messaging at a Senate Democratic retreat.
The call for change was repeated during a caucus-wide conference call on Nov. 3, the day after Democrats lost six Senate seats in the midterm elections.
Reid, Schumer, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Conference Secretary Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are expected to be re-elected to their leadership positions at a special caucus Tuesday morning.
In a phone interview, Stabenow said she was “very appreciative of Sen. Reid’s confidence in me and very pleased to work with Chuck Schumer as a team, both to put together our new policy strategy and to coordinate messaging on who we’re fighting for.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) praised the announcement in a statement.
“I strongly support Majority Leader Reid’s efforts to strengthen our policy and press operations. The team he put together will combine the substantive work on policies to help middle-class working families with the savvy and skills needed to communicate those policies to the American people,” he said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.