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Senate Democrats Begin Planning Road Back to Majority

Senate Democrats will meet Wednesday to start plotting a path back to the majority. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democrats will hold their first strategy session on taking back the majority Wednesday afternoon, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide.  

The informal session will be led by Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, who is chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who is DPCC vice chairman. The meeting will be the first since last month's elections, and will kick off a series of discussions that will include a full caucus retreat early next year.  

"Senate Democrats feel optimistic about the opportunities to pick up seats after this year's election given the map in 2016, but know that the caucus needs to be focused and clear-eyed about putting forth an agenda that resonates with the middle class," the aide said.  

Democrats hold just 10 seats up in 2016, while Republicans will be defending 24 seats.  

The aide described the meeting as a "big picture" discussion, with policy goals to be fleshed out later.  

Democrats "are not expected to decide specific policies that they will push in response to the Republicans in the meeting, but rather begin to discuss broader themes that will guide their agenda and messaging in the coming years," the aide said.  

The meeting comes after Democrats have been feuding among one another following the election losses. In the next Congress, Republicans will have a 53-46 majority in the chamber, having added seven seats, excluding the Louisiana Senate race, which will be decided by a Saturday runoff.  

Schumer gave a speech last week where he argued that it was a mistake for Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House to prioritize the overhaul of the health care system the way they did when they controlled both chambers back in 2009 and 2010.  

That led House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to defend the move noting in a statement: “We come here to do a job, not keep a job. There are more than 14 million reasons why that's wrong," referring to the people who are now insured under the law who previously were not.  

The meeting also comes after a lengthy caucus-organizing meeting held last month, where six Democrats voted against Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada to be minority leader in protest over the Democrats' defeat.  

At the meeting, the leadership team was expanded to include more input from the liberal and moderate wings of the caucus.  

New leadership members include Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., a moderate who is the new head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who is chairwoman of Steering and Outreach; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has a newly created post to reach out to the progressive wing of the party.  

Sen. Mark Warner, a moderate Democrat from Virginia who voted against Reid for leader, was added to the leadership team last week as a policy development adviser at the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.  

The meeting will take place in the LBJ Room off the Senate floor and members are expected to come and go as their schedules allow.  

The large majority of the session will be comprised of open, moderated discussion that will be driven by the senators in attendance.