Dems discuss dropping Wasserman Schultz

Democrats on Capitol Hill are discussing whether Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz should step down as Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman before the party’s national convention in July.

Democrats backing likely presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote Women's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement MORE worry Wasserman Schultz has become too divisive a figure to unify the party in 2016, which they say is crucial to defeating presumptive GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt MORE in November.

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Wasserman Schultz has had an increasingly acrimonious relationship with the party’s other presidential candidate, Bernie SandersBernie SandersBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Lawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE, and his supporters, who argue she has tilted the scales in Clinton’s favor.

“There have been a lot of meetings over the past 48 hours about what color plate do we deliver Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s head on,” said one pro-Clinton Democratic senator.

The lawmaker said senators huddled on the chamber floor last week to talk about Wasserman Schultz’s future and estimated that about a dozen have weighed in during private conversations.

“I don’t see how she can continue to the election. How can she open the convention? Sanders supporters would go nuts,” said the lawmaker, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

There is no indication Wasserman Schultz, who is also a Florida congresswoman, has any plans to leave her post. And Senate sources stress that a final decision won’t be made until Clinton and Sanders negotiate some type of deal aimed at healing the party. President Obama, who selected Wasserman ­Schultz as chairwoman in 2011, is expected to play a major role in any such talks.

The Clinton and Sanders campaigns have already struck a deal with Wasserman Schultz to limit her role in the convention’s platform committee.

Under DNC rules, she could have appointed all 15 members of the platform committee but instead picked only four. Clinton got to fill six positions, and Sanders chose five.

The concession, however, may not be enough to keep her in the job through the Democratic National Convention.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said, “There’s a strong sentiment that the current situation is untenable and can only be fixed by her leaving. There’s too much water under the bridge for her to be a neutral arbiter.”

Another Democratic senator who supports Clinton said Wasserman Schultz will hurt her chances of rallying the liberal base in the fall.

“We need to get this figured out and come together,” said the lawmaker. “Hillary’s got the nomination. She needs Bernie’s energy. It’s time for her to accommodate. It’s time to pick hard-nosed people to cut through things and figure out a deal.

“They need to know this is their party,” the lawmaker said, observing that if Wasserman Schultz were to be replaced as party leader, young liberals may become more enthusiastic about the ticket.

Lawmakers who have discussed the end of Wasserman Schultz’s tenure acknowledge the fate would be unfair because she’s worked hard to help the party. But they say the greater priority is to mollify restive liberals backing Sanders.

Wasserman Schultz and Sanders backers have clashed on Twitter in the wake of the chaotic Nevada Democratic convention earlier this month. 

Sanders, who claimed the party establishment gave Clinton an unfair advantage in Nevada, has since endorsed Wasserman Schultz’s primary opponent. He also said he would not want her to continue as DNC chief if he were to become president.

Among Democrats, the view that Wasserman Schultz should go in the name of party unity isn’t unanimous.

Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiHarris invites every female senator to dinner next week Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Bottom line MORE (D-Md.), the dean of Senate Democratic women, said Wasserman Schultz has done well in moderating the primary fight between Clinton and Sanders.

“I think Debbie Wasserman Schultz has done a good job. If you look at her platform committee appointments, she really gave a lot of room to Bernie supporters,” Mikulski said.

Mikulski said she was not aware of conversations about replacing the DNC chairwoman.

“That’s not going to happen. I certainly wouldn’t let it happen,” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTom Brady to Biden: '40 percent of the people still don't think we won' Rubio, Demings rake in cash as Florida Senate race heats up How transparency on UFOs can unite a deeply divided nation MORE (D-Fla.) said of the prospect of Wasserman Schultz leaving the DNC before the convention.

Nelson was one of several senators who called to speak on the record after The Hill contacted the DNC for comment.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineGOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE (D-Va.), a former DNC chairman whose name has been floated as a possible running mate for Clinton, said: “We don’t need to be making a change in chairs right now as we’re coming to the conclusion of this. I strongly believe that.”

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandTreat broadband as infrastructure and we have a chance to get it right House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors To make energy green, remove red tape MORE (D-N.Y.), one of the rising female stars of the upper chamber, said, “She helped elect Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDemocrats need a coherent response to attacks on critical race theory Blinken meets representative of Dalai Lama in India Obama to join NBA Africa as strategic partner MORE twice, and she’s going to help elect our nominee, whom I believe should be Hillary.”

In an emailed statement to The Hill, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said, “DNC Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz enjoys the support of members of the House Democratic Caucus for her leadership in unifying the party and winning in November.”

An aide to Vice President Biden said, “He supports her and her leadership of the committee.”

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenEquilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Clean power repurposes dirty power CIA watchdog to review handling of 'Havana syndrome' cases Frustration builds as infrastructure talks drag MORE (D-N.H.), House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Health Care: CDC advises vaccinated to wear masks in high-risk areas | Biden admin considering vaccine mandate for federal workers Biden administration spending 1M to boost vaccinations in underserved communities Four senators call on Becerra to back importation of prescription drugs from Canada MORE (Calif.) also contacted The Hill to express their support for her.

“The real story is you have a bunch of notable U.S. senators and members of Congress on the record expressing support for the strong leadership Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has provided at the party, and an anonymous source who disagrees,” said Luis Miranda, the DNC’s communications director.

“She’s going to continue to focus on uniting Democrats and on being an asset to help elect them up and down the ballot in November, just as she’s done for many in both chambers,” he added.

But a neutral Democratic strategist involved in talks between constituencies on either side of the Clinton-Sanders divide said electing a new chairman “would help everyone.”

“I think that would help the Hillary campaign. That would be a symbol to the Bernie people that Hillary is hearing them,” he said.

Still, Clinton is known for valuing loyalty, and pushing Wasserman Schultz out could signal weakness. The Florida legislator endorsed Clinton over Obama in 2008.

The Sanders campaign and its allies have accused her of giving Clinton favorable treatment in an array of areas.

They point to several instances of perceived bias, such as scheduling televised debates at times of lower viewership, suspending Sanders’s access to a shared voter database and setting up a joint fundraising committee with Clinton’s campaign.

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver recently alleged that Wasserman Schultz has been “working against” Sanders for “personal reasons.”

“It’s been clear there is a pattern of conduct from the beginning of this campaign that has been hostile to Bernie Sanders and his supporters, and really, she’s become a divisive figure in the party,” he told MSNBC host Steve Kornacki.

The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The Sanders campaign questioned Wasserman Schultz’s ability to engage the party’s various blocs.

“Sen. Sanders has said that if elected president he would not support Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chair of the Democratic National Committee. He believes that we need a chair who can effectively reach out to all the constituencies that are part of the Democratic Party,” said spokesman Michael Briggs.

Following the uproar at the Nevada convention earlier this month, some pro-Clinton lawmakers wanted Sanders to call for party unity, but he opted instead to rip the party establishment.

“Unfortunately, the senator’s response was anything but acceptable,” Wasserman Schultz told CNN. “It certainly did not condemn his supporters for acting violently or engaging in intimidation tactics, and instead added more fuel to the fire.”

That response struck many Democrats — Clinton and Sanders supporters alike — as tone-deaf.

“It’s very important for her to adopt a role of pouring oil on troubled waters. She did the opposite last week when she poured gasoline on the events that occurred in Nevada,” said Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyHuman rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Bipartisan congressional commission urges IOC to postpone, relocate Beijing Games MORE (D-Ore.), the only member of the Senate who has endorsed Sanders.

He said, however, that he was “heartened” that Wasserman Schultz allowed Sanders to appoint five members to the platform committee.

When asked if Wasserman Schultz should stay on as DNC chairwoman through the convention, Merkley said, “I’ll leave that to others.”

— Updated at 9:58 p.m.