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

Democratic senators on Wednesday elected Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid MORE (N.Y.) to replace retiring Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo Build Back Better, we need a tax system where everyone pays their fair share Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda 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 TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election 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 SandersBernie SandersBiden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Manchin: Biden told moderates to pitch price tag for reconciliation bill Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions 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 ClintonHeller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 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 MurrayTop Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill Faith leaders call on Congress to lead the response to a global pandemic Conservation group says it will only endorse Democrats who support .5T spending plan 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 StabenowGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff Sanders says spending plan should be .5T 'at the very least' Senators call on Taiwan for aid in automotive chip shortage MORE (Mich.) to chair the Democratic Policy and Communications Center, which is in charge of coordinating the floor and messaging strategies.

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinCOVID-19: US should help Africa, or China will GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in 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 BaldwinDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack This week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake MORE (Wis.), who is openly gay, and Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Manchin: Biden told moderates to pitch price tag for reconciliation bill Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions 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 MurphySenators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State Tell our troops: 'Your sacrifice wasn't in vain' Sunday shows preview: Bombing in Kabul delivers blow to evacuation effort; US orders strikes on ISIS-K 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) TesterBiden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Manchin: Biden told moderates to pitch price tag for reconciliation bill Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight 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 Warren11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Senate Democrats seeking information from SPACs, questioning 'misaligned incentives' UN secretary-general blasts space tourism MORE (Mass.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' Advocates call on top Democrats for 0B in housing investments Democrats draw red lines in spending fight 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 KlobucharThis week: Democrats face mounting headaches Klobuchar: 'It is evil to make it deliberately hard for people to vote' Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats   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 ThuneGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (R-S.D.).

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