Schumer elected Senate Dem leader, sets leadership team
© Greg Nash

Democratic senators on Wednesday elected Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (N.Y.) to replace retiring Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSanders hires veteran progressive operative to manage 2020 bid Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Klobuchar: 'I don't remember' conversation with Reid over alleged staff mistreatment MORE (Nev.) as their leader.

Schumer told reporters Wednesday that one of his top priorities will be to sharpen his party’s economic message, which fell flat in several battleground states won last week by President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE

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“We needed a much sharper, bolder, stronger economic message. And we needed to let the American people understand what we believe, that the system’s not working for them. And we’re going to change it,” he said. 

One of Schumer’s first acts as leader was to expand the Senate Democratic leadership team by recruiting three new members and selecting two women to serve in senior positions. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBernie Sanders to sign pledge affirming he will run as a Democrat Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Hillicon Valley: Microsoft reveals new Russian hack attempts | Google failed to disclose hidden microphone | Booker makes late HQ2 bid | Conservative group targets Ocasio-Cortez over Amazon MORE (I-Vt.), who exceeded expectations in the Democratic presidential primaries and carried two Rust Belt states, Michigan and Wisconsin, that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it Harris adds key Clinton aide, women of color to 2020 campaign: report Democrats more likely Trump's foil, than to foil Trump MORE lost on Election Day, will become the leadership’s new chairman of outreach

Sanders said in a statement that he will work on organizing grassroots activism around the country on behalf of progressive principles.

“Real change doesn’t take place on Capitol Hill. It takes place in grassroots America,” he said. “It takes place when millions of working people, young people and senior citizens come together to demand that our government works for all of us and not just the 1 percent.”

Schumer selected Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayJohnson & Johnson subpoenaed by DOJ and SEC, company says Top Dems blast administration's proposed ObamaCare changes Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment MORE (Wash.) to serve as assistant Democratic leader, a newly created position that makes her the third-ranking member of the leadership. 

And he chose Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowLand conservation tax incentives should inspire charitable giving, not loopholes Four names emerge for UN position: report Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal MORE (Mich.) to chair the Democratic Policy and Communications Center, which is in charge of coordinating the floor and messaging strategies.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin: Trump pressuring acting AG in Cohen probe is 'no surprise' Durbin after reading Green New Deal: 'What in the heck is this?' Sanders: 'Not crazy' about nixing the Senate filibuster MORE (Ill.) was reelected as Senate Democratic whip but saw his job description change as he relinquished the role of assistant Democratic leader to Murray. 

There was speculation throughout the 114th Congress that Murray would challenge Durbin for the whip’s job, but she didn’t want to fight him for the role, aides said.

Instead, Murray had periodic conversations with Schumer to express her interest in helping the leadership team in whatever way she could. If Schumer decided to call for a new whip, she could have filled the role, but ultimately Schumer — a former housemate of Durbin’s — decided to avoid infighting in the caucus. 

Durbin aggressively rounded up support from colleagues to keep the whip’s job after it became clear that Schumer had locked up enough backing to succeed Reid. 

The other two additions to the leadership team are Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Dems offer smaller step toward ‘Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid MORE (Wis.), who is openly gay, and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGabbard cites ‘concerns’ about ‘vagueness’ of Green New Deal Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general MORE (W.Va.), one of the most centrist members of the Democratic conference. 

Baldwin will serve as Senate Democratic Conference secretary, while Manchin will serve as vice chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Center.

Democrats said the expansion of the leadership team means that Schumer plans to have a more inclusive leadership style than Reid. 

“The expansion of the team reflects that Chuck is going to be a much more inclusive leader. Harry kept a tight circle of advisers. Chuck’s circle is going to be bigger,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support House passes bill to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen This week: Border deal remains elusive as shutdown looms MORE (D-Conn.).

“Adding Manchin and Sanders doesn’t give you a hint of what policy direction the caucus is heading in; it just tells you that Chuck is going to listen to a lot of people,” he added. 

Schumer must still find someone to replace Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterHow the border deal came together GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Border talks stall as another shutdown looms MORE (Mont.) — who faces reelection in 2018 — as Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman in the next election cycle.

It will be a tough job, as Democrats have to defend 25 seats, including seats in GOP-leaning states such as Indiana, Montana, Missouri, North Dakota and West Virginia, in 2018.

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenCoast Guard lieutenant arrested, accused of planning domestic terrorism Hillicon Valley: Microsoft reveals new Russian hack attempts | Google failed to disclose hidden microphone | Booker makes late HQ2 bid | Conservative group targets Ocasio-Cortez over Amazon Trump campaign fundraising on Bernie Sanders's M haul MORE (Mass.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTalk grows that Trump will fire Dan Coats Harris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' MORE (Va.), who served as policy advisers to the leadership in the 114th Congress, have been given new titles. They will serve as vice chairs of the Senate Democratic Conference.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSanders on Trump insult: Crazy that president 'is a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and a fraud' Trump revives 'Crazy Bernie' nickname one day after Sanders enters race Betting against Bernie? Dems assess the risk MORE (D-Minn.) will see her job description change. She served as chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee in the 114th Congress. Her new title is chairwoman of the Steering Committee, a reflection of Schumer’s decision to put Sanders in charge of outreach.

Schumer’s election will bring to an end Reid’s 12-year tenure as Senate Democratic leader. He took over after his predecessor, Sen. Tom Daschle (S.D.), lost his seat to Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePolls: Hiking estate tax less popular than taxing mega wealth, income Will Trump sign the border deal? Here's what we know Key GOP senator pitches Trump: Funding deal a 'down payment' on wall MORE (R-S.D.).

--This report was updated at 7:24 p.m.