Senate Democrats say Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerA Justice Gorsuch will defend religious Americans from persecution Dem to Trump: 'You truly are an evil man' Dem senator: GOP controls all of gov't, so success or failure is on them MORE (D-N.Y.) will not challenge Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Overnight Regulation: Senate moves to strike Obama-era internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs MORE (D-Ore.) to become the next chairman of the powerful Finance Committee.
“It would be a bloodbath if Schumer tried to leapfrog Wyden,” said a Senate Democratic aide.
“It would be very unusual not to follow the seniority system,” said another Democratic aide. “If Reid follows the seniority system, the chairmanship of Finance would go to Wyden, if he’s interested.”
The last time a Senate Democratic leader trumped seniority in awarding a committee chairmanship was in 1913, when Sen. Ben Tillman (D-S.C.) was passed over for the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, according to Senate Historian Donald Ritchie.
Brian Fallon, Schumer’s spokesman, declined to comment on whether his boss has ambitions to become chairman of the Finance panel.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax BaucusGOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators Five reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination MORE (D-Mont.) shook up the Senate Democratic Caucus Tuesday by announcing he would not run for re-election in 2014, catching his colleagues and even his staff by surprise.
The second-ranking Democrat on the panel, Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE (W.Va.), also plans to retire at the end of next year, putting Wyden next in the line of succession.
Wyden on Tuesday declined to say whether he was interested in taking over the senior Democratic slot on Finance. He became chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in January.
Wyden has clashed with Reid in the past, and alarmed party leaders and liberal colleagues when he co-authored a white paper with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan aides: President 'clear' his tweet had nothing to do with Ryan Lawmakers signal fight for healthcare reform is not over Cotton: House 'moved a bit too fast' on healthcare MORE (R-Wis.) in December of 2011 to reduce Medicare spending. The plan called for the creation of private alternatives to compete with Medicare.
“I believe the most important aspect of Medicare is not the structure of the program but the guarantee to all Americans that they will have high quality health care as they get older,” Wyden wrote in an op-ed published by The Huffington Post.
As chairman of Finance, Wyden would have jurisdiction over the healthcare safety-net program.
One of Wyden’s biggest clashes with Reid came two years ago when he voted against a 2011 government spending bill because the majority leader agreed to a legislative provision that eliminated the Free Choice Voucher provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Wyden authored the provision in the law to give employees the ability to hold employers and insurance companies accountable for offering affordable health insurance plans.
Rockefeller said he thinks Wyden would not pursue controversial policy proposals in collaboration with Republicans if he were to become Finance chairman.
“When you become a committee chairman, you have to stop doing certain things,” said Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “My theory is when you become chairman you actually can’t freelance.”
Rockefeller said if Wyden signed onto a controversial Medicare reform proposal as chairman of Finance, he could not get other Democrats on the panel to support it.