Dems discuss dropping Wasserman Schultz

Democrats on Capitol Hill are discussing whether Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz should step down as Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman before the party’s national convention in July.

Democrats backing likely presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE worry Wasserman Schultz has become too divisive a figure to unify the party in 2016, which they say is crucial to defeating presumptive GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE in November.

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Wasserman Schultz has had an increasingly acrimonious relationship with the party’s other presidential candidate, Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Clip shows Larry David and Bernie Sanders reacting after discovering they're related For now, Trump dossier creates more questions than answers MORE, and his supporters, who argue she has tilted the scales in Clinton’s favor.

“There have been a lot of meetings over the past 48 hours about what color plate do we deliver Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s head on,” said one pro-Clinton Democratic senator.

The lawmaker said senators huddled on the chamber floor last week to talk about Wasserman Schultz’s future and estimated that about a dozen have weighed in during private conversations.

“I don’t see how she can continue to the election. How can she open the convention? Sanders supporters would go nuts,” said the lawmaker, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

There is no indication Wasserman Schultz, who is also a Florida congresswoman, has any plans to leave her post. And Senate sources stress that a final decision won’t be made until Clinton and Sanders negotiate some type of deal aimed at healing the party. President Obama, who selected Wasserman ­Schultz as chairwoman in 2011, is expected to play a major role in any such talks.

The Clinton and Sanders campaigns have already struck a deal with Wasserman Schultz to limit her role in the convention’s platform committee.

Under DNC rules, she could have appointed all 15 members of the platform committee but instead picked only four. Clinton got to fill six positions, and Sanders chose five.

The concession, however, may not be enough to keep her in the job through the Democratic National Convention.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said, “There’s a strong sentiment that the current situation is untenable and can only be fixed by her leaving. There’s too much water under the bridge for her to be a neutral arbiter.”

Another Democratic senator who supports Clinton said Wasserman Schultz will hurt her chances of rallying the liberal base in the fall.

“We need to get this figured out and come together,” said the lawmaker. “Hillary’s got the nomination. She needs Bernie’s energy. It’s time for her to accommodate. It’s time to pick hard-nosed people to cut through things and figure out a deal.

“They need to know this is their party,” the lawmaker said, observing that if Wasserman Schultz were to be replaced as party leader, young liberals may become more enthusiastic about the ticket.

Lawmakers who have discussed the end of Wasserman Schultz’s tenure acknowledge the fate would be unfair because she’s worked hard to help the party. But they say the greater priority is to mollify restive liberals backing Sanders.

Wasserman Schultz and Sanders backers have clashed on Twitter in the wake of the chaotic Nevada Democratic convention earlier this month. 

Sanders, who claimed the party establishment gave Clinton an unfair advantage in Nevada, has since endorsed Wasserman Schultz’s primary opponent. He also said he would not want her to continue as DNC chief if he were to become president.

Among Democrats, the view that Wasserman Schultz should go in the name of party unity isn’t unanimous.

Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiGore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Bipartisan friendship is a civil solution to political dysfunction Dems press for paycheck fairness bill on Equal Pay Day MORE (D-Md.), the dean of Senate Democratic women, said Wasserman Schultz has done well in moderating the primary fight between Clinton and Sanders.

“I think Debbie Wasserman Schultz has done a good job. If you look at her platform committee appointments, she really gave a lot of room to Bernie supporters,” Mikulski said.

Mikulski said she was not aware of conversations about replacing the DNC chairwoman.

“That’s not going to happen. I certainly wouldn’t let it happen,” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate panel approves bill to speed up driverless cars Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump proclaims 'Cybersecurity Awareness Month' | Equifax missed chance to patch security flaw | Lawmakers await ex-CEO's testimony | SEC hack exposed personal data MORE (D-Fla.) said of the prospect of Wasserman Schultz leaving the DNC before the convention.

Nelson was one of several senators who called to speak on the record after The Hill contacted the DNC for comment.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy Michael KaineAuthorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient Week ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny Insurer Anthem to cover bare ObamaCare counties in Virginia MORE (D-Va.), a former DNC chairman whose name has been floated as a possible running mate for Clinton, said: “We don’t need to be making a change in chairs right now as we’re coming to the conclusion of this. I strongly believe that.”

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Overnight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick Dems lambaste Trump’s ‘outrageous’ EPA chemical safety pick MORE (D-N.Y.), one of the rising female stars of the upper chamber, said, “She helped elect Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE twice, and she’s going to help elect our nominee, whom I believe should be Hillary.”

In an emailed statement to The Hill, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said, “DNC Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz enjoys the support of members of the House Democratic Caucus for her leadership in unifying the party and winning in November.”

An aide to Vice President Biden said, “He supports her and her leadership of the committee.”

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenHomeland Security searching some social media doesn't violate privacy The feds shouldn't blackball Kaspersky without public evidence Week ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny MORE (D-N.H.), House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Regulation: Trump temporarily lifts Jones Act for Puerto Rico | Bill would exempt some banks from Dodd-Frank | Senators unveil driverless car bill Calif. AG: Trump backs down on greenhouse gas rule Overnight Energy: California cities sue oil giants over climate change MORE (Calif.) also contacted The Hill to express their support for her.

“The real story is you have a bunch of notable U.S. senators and members of Congress on the record expressing support for the strong leadership Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has provided at the party, and an anonymous source who disagrees,” said Luis Miranda, the DNC’s communications director.

“She’s going to continue to focus on uniting Democrats and on being an asset to help elect them up and down the ballot in November, just as she’s done for many in both chambers,” he added.

But a neutral Democratic strategist involved in talks between constituencies on either side of the Clinton-Sanders divide said electing a new chairman “would help everyone.”

“I think that would help the Hillary campaign. That would be a symbol to the Bernie people that Hillary is hearing them,” he said.

Still, Clinton is known for valuing loyalty, and pushing Wasserman Schultz out could signal weakness. The Florida legislator endorsed Clinton over Obama in 2008.

The Sanders campaign and its allies have accused her of giving Clinton favorable treatment in an array of areas.

They point to several instances of perceived bias, such as scheduling televised debates at times of lower viewership, suspending Sanders’s access to a shared voter database and setting up a joint fundraising committee with Clinton’s campaign.

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver recently alleged that Wasserman Schultz has been “working against” Sanders for “personal reasons.”

“It’s been clear there is a pattern of conduct from the beginning of this campaign that has been hostile to Bernie Sanders and his supporters, and really, she’s become a divisive figure in the party,” he told MSNBC host Steve Kornacki.

The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The Sanders campaign questioned Wasserman Schultz’s ability to engage the party’s various blocs.

“Sen. Sanders has said that if elected president he would not support Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chair of the Democratic National Committee. He believes that we need a chair who can effectively reach out to all the constituencies that are part of the Democratic Party,” said spokesman Michael Briggs.

Following the uproar at the Nevada convention earlier this month, some pro-Clinton lawmakers wanted Sanders to call for party unity, but he opted instead to rip the party establishment.

“Unfortunately, the senator’s response was anything but acceptable,” Wasserman Schultz told CNN. “It certainly did not condemn his supporters for acting violently or engaging in intimidation tactics, and instead added more fuel to the fire.”

That response struck many Democrats — Clinton and Sanders supporters alike — as tone-deaf.

“It’s very important for her to adopt a role of pouring oil on troubled waters. She did the opposite last week when she poured gasoline on the events that occurred in Nevada,” said Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick Dem senator slams Trump for dedicating golf trophy to hurricane victims Dem senator compares Trump to Marie Antoinette MORE (D-Ore.), the only member of the Senate who has endorsed Sanders.

He said, however, that he was “heartened” that Wasserman Schultz allowed Sanders to appoint five members to the platform committee.

When asked if Wasserman Schultz should stay on as DNC chairwoman through the convention, Merkley said, “I’ll leave that to others.”

— Updated at 9:58 p.m.