Reid to reshuffle Senate Democratic leadership

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has created a new leadership position for Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
 
Reid has decided to fuse the Senate Democratic policy and communications shops into a new operation that Schumer will lead in the 112th Congress.
 

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Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who is now chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, will serve as vice chairwoman of the new policy and communications office. She is facing a potentially difficult reelection in 2012.
 
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) will take over as chairman of the Steering and Outreach Committee in the new Congress.

Senate Democrats will hold leadership elections on Tuesday morning and are expected to re-elect Reid to his position as leader. Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the Democratic whip, is expected to win reelection to the No. 2 spot.
 
Reid has pledged to make changes to the Democratic leadership if he wins another term as leader.
 
“If I am fortunate enough to serve again as your leader, one of my first priorities will be to strengthen our strategic operations,” Reid wrote in a letter to colleagues. “To do so, we must better integrate our legislative- and message-crafting functions into a central, coordinated nucleus managing policy, press and politics.
 
“That starts with uniting the Democratic Policy Committee and the Senate Democratic Communications Center into a joint operation,” Reid wrote.
 
The reshuffling of the Democratic leadership is made easier by the retirement of Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who has served as chairman of the Democratic policy committee since 1999.
 
“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.

Democrats have privately mulled the possibility of combining the policy committee with the Senate Democratic war room since Dorgan announced his retirement at the beginning of this year.

A Democratic aide said Democratic senators elected in 2006 who are facing tough re-elections in 2012 wanted better coordination between the political, policy and press operations of their conference.

The new arrangement will allow Democrats to handle more strategy and press outreach from inside the chamber and outsource less to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

Democrats facing re-election in 2012 want Schumer to take over the DSCC but he would prefer to focus on policy work. Giving the Democratic Policy Committee more of a political role and putting Schumer in charge is a compromise. It could pave the way for a more junior lawmaker taking over the DSCC.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the class of 2006, applauded Reid’s decision.

“Senator Reid’s decision to integrate the messaging operation of the Democratic Caucus is a critical step forward and one that should serve us well as we all work on behalf of hard working Americans,” he said in a statement. “I applaud the new arrangement, which is consistent with the suggestions made by newer members of our caucus to better focus our message.

“Maximizing opportunities for internal coordination can only help to ensure that Democrats keep the Senate focused on creating jobs, helping the middle class, and growing our economy,” Cardin said. 

This story was updated at 6:19 p.m.