Powerful committee seats rewarded to Dems who survived tough races

Politics played a powerful role in Senate Democrats' committee assignments, announced on Wednesday, with many of the senators-elect who survived tough races given plum spots in powerful committees as a reward.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who agreed to take on the job of Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) chairman during a cycle that looks less than favorable for Democrats, was rewarded for his trouble with a position on the Finance Committee, something he had expressed interest in before making his decision on the DSCC chairmanship.

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Bennet will give up his spots on the Banking and Aging committees to make time for his new responsibilities on the Finance Committee and as DSCC chairman, which will require him to travel the nation recruiting candidates and raising millions to protect the Democratic majority in the Senate. 

That task looks as daunting as it did two years ago, with 20 Democrats up for reelection — many in states Mitt Romney won this year — and only 13 Republican seats up in 2014.

But Democrats managed to expand their majority under outgoing DSCC Chairwoman Patty Murray's (D-Wash.) watch and, following her efforts, she's been named chairwoman of the Budget Committee.

Other senators were rewarded for their campaign battles, including Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who defeated Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in one of the nation's most prominent and pricy races.

Warren was the chief architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and has long been a critic of Wall Street and big banks. She was given a seat on the Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over Wall Street regulation and oversight.

She'll also serve on the Aging and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees.

Sen.-elect Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) was also given a spot on the Banking Committee, as well as the Agriculture, Small Business, Indian Affairs and Homeland Security and Government Affairs committees. She managed to pull out a surprise win against Rep. Rick Berg (R) on Election Night, despite Romney's sweep of the state by about 20 percentage points.

Farming is one of North Dakota's main economic drivers, and she pledged during her campaign to nab a seat on the Agriculture Committee, which oversees the creation and implementation of the farm bill.

And Sen.-elect Angus King, an independent from Maine, was rewarded for choosing to caucus with Democrats with seats on the powerful Budget, Armed Services, Rules and Intelligence committees.