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

Democratic senators on Wednesday elected Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats should end their hypocrisy when it comes to Kavanaugh and the judiciary Celebrities back both Cuomo and Nixon as New Yorkers head to primary vote Dems launch million digital ad buy in top Senate races MORE (N.Y.) to replace retiring Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Dems can’t ‘Bork’ Kavanaugh, and have only themselves to blame Dem senator: Confidential documents would 'strongly bolster' argument against Kavanaugh's nomination 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 TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president 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) SandersProtecting democracy requires action from all of us Kavanaugh hires attorney amid sexual assault allegations: report Amazon probes allegations of employees leaking data for bribes: report 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 ClintonTrump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe Hypocrisy in Kavanaugh case enough to set off alarms in DC Clinton: Hard to ignore 'racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says' 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 MurrayTime for action to improve government data analysis Overnight Health Care: Opioid bill, action on drug prices top fall agenda | ObamaCare defenders prep for court case | Koch group ad hits McCaskill on health care Measure making it easier to prosecute police for deadly force on Washington ballot 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 StabenowCongress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms Trump attacks Dems on farm bill Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security 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 DurbinTop Senate Dem: Public hearing is ‘only way to go’ for Kavanaugh accuser Durbin calls for delay in Kavanaugh vote Dems engage in last-ditch effort to block Kavanaugh 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 BaldwinPrimary turnout soars in 2018 with Dems leading charge Senate rankings: 10 seats most likely to flip Five biggest surprises in midterm fight MORE (Wis.), who is openly gay, and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow 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 MurphySituation in Yemen should lead us to return to a constitutional foreign policy Overnight Defense: Biden honors McCain at Phoenix memorial service | US considers sending captured ISIS fighters to Gitmo and Iraq | Senators press Trump on ending Yemen civil war Senators press Trump administration on Yemen civil war 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) TesterCBS Poll: Missouri, Montana Senate races in dead heats Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski Watchdog groups to file complaint against Montana candidate alleging coordination with NRA 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 WarrenAnother recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief Warren says vote should be delayed, asks what Kavanaugh is hiding Kavanaugh hires attorney amid sexual assault allegations: report MORE (Mass.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ Warner: 'overwhelming majority' of Republicans would back social media regulations 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 KlobucharGOP in striking distance to retake Franken seat Warner: 'overwhelming majority' of Republicans would back social media regulations Republicans block Democratic bid to subpoena Kavanaugh documents 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 Thune Google, Apple, Amazon execs to testify at Senate privacy hearing this month Trump gets good news on wages Flake rebuts Trump: Anonymous op-ed author did not commit 'treason' MORE (R-S.D.).

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