Sen. Warner gaining more influence

Sen. Warner gaining more influence

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns Ex-Obama counterterrorism official: Huawei could pose security threat to international intelligence community Bipartisan senators to introduce bill forcing online platforms to disclose value of user data MORE is less outspoken than some of his fellow junior Democrats, but he’s beginning to be seen as a powerful player in Congress.

The freshman Democrat from Virginia has never been known for flamboyance. Political reporters repeatedly knocked him during the early stages of the 2008 campaign for being boring.

ADVERTISEMENT

But when he joined the Senate last year, Warner signaled he wanted to delve deep into the legislative process, hiring Luke Albee and Jonathan Davidson, two staffers with more than 30 years of Senate experience between them, as his senior aides.

And he’s given $87,500 from his leadership political action committee (PAC) to colleagues and Democratic candidates as well as $5,000 to the Nevada Democratic Party and $15,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over the past 15 months.  Warner, however, is tightlipped about this work.

 “I’m happy to help my colleagues,” he said.

 The senator also teamed up with Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment Jeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump MORE (R-Tenn.) to tackle a major piece of financial regulatory reform: the problem of financial institutions becoming too big to fail.

 In recent weeks he has reached out to Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump puts the cart before the horse in Palestine Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns MORE (R-S.C.) on legislation to provide tax incentives for homes and offices that become more energy-efficient.

Graham said he had “a couple” of lunches and dinners with Warner and other senators in recent months and Warner suggested working together during one of those meals.

“He’s an easy guy to work with,” said Graham. “He seems willing to engage Republicans.”

 John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, said Warner “is one of the few people that can still have a civil conversation with people across the aisle.”

Even after bipartisan negotiations on financial regulatory reform collapsed, Corker praised Warner as “the best partner anybody could possibly imagine.”

Warner’s rumored presidential ambitions, prodigious giving as a freshman and feverish activity have raised speculation among Senate insiders that he may aspire to a future in the Democratic leadership.

ADVERTISEMENT

 One senior Democratic aide said that a centrist could emerge as a dark horse in a potential leadership race between Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinNegotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline Senate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions Schumer calls for delay on passage of defense bill amid Iran tensions MORE (Ill.) and Senate Democratic Vice Chairman Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems McConnell vows to 'vigorously' oppose Moore's Senate bid Pelosi: Trump delay on Harriet Tubman is 'an insult to the hopes of millions' MORE (N.Y.) if Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenators briefed on US Navy's encounters with UFOs: report Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview MORE (D-Nev.) loses reelection. The aide speculated Warner could be a promising candidate, although he has the disadvantage of being a freshman.

Warner, in a brief hallway interview, dismissed that possibility as “baloney.”

But Warner took a more partisan stance Tuesday when he organized a Senate floor protest of GOP obstruction of President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden to debate for first time as front-runner John Kerry: Play based on Mueller report is 'an act of public service' Obama photographed alongside Clooney on boat in Italy MORE’s nominees.

Thirteen lawmakers made it to the floor to highlight what they called Republican abuse of Senate procedures.

In a large group of talented and energetic sophomore and freshman senators, such as Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSize of 2020 field too big even for Democratic enthusiasts, poll finds Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Trump's UN pick faces Senate grilling MORE (D-R.I.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHouse panel to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency project Democrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law Facebook's new cryptocurrency raises red flags for critics MORE (D-Ohio) and Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP Barbs start to fly ahead of first Democratic debate MORE (D-Minn.), Warner cringes at the thought of coming off as a show horse instead of a workhorse.

Behind the scenes, he has worked to unify junior Democratic senators.

Warner helped put together a recent meeting between the Democratic classes of 2006 and 2008 to voice frustration over Republican use of the filibuster. That led to a meeting last week with Reid at which the majority leader pledged to pursue reform of the filibuster rule.

The Democratic freshman class — which totals 12 members — began meeting regularly at the start of the 111th Congress. Warner suggested the group take advantage of its influence as a large bloc of the conference by inviting guests to join it for briefings and discussions.

So far the group has met with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, National Security Adviser Jim Jones, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusFederal investigators concluded Ryan Zinke's MAGA socks violated Hatch Act Kansas Senate race splits wide open without Pompeo Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? MORE and had lunch with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

The regular policy discussions have helped forge a sense of identity and teamwork. And as the freshmen have learned the intricate workings of the chamber, they have sought to have a bigger impact.

 Warner’s bustling activity has received little attention because he has preferred not to discuss with reporters his private interactions with colleagues.

But his role emerged during interviews with freshman and sophomore Democrats last week.

 Senate Democratic leaders view Warner as one of the more promising new members of the conference and have given him challenging assignments.

 Reid put him in charge of Senate Democratic outreach to the business community, a constituency that has had a rocky relationship with the party over the years.

 But Warner, who co-founded the company that became Nextel and earned millions in the telecommunications industry, has won rave reviews from business leaders.

 

ADVERTISEMENT
John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, an association of corporate CEOs, said Warner helped to get his group more comfortable with the Senate healthcare bill.

Warner was one of the leaders of a group of freshman Democrats who offered a package of amendments to contain costs, encourage innovation and promote accountability across the healthcare system.

The freshmen won the early support of Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns Stephen King: 'It's time for Susan Collins to go' MORE and won adoption of the package, a rare and significant bipartisan victory.

“They moved us from being neutral and skeptical [about the bill] to positive enough that we encouraged the Senate to move forward,” Castellani said.

Castellani said he could not even recall who handled business outreach to Democrats before Warner.  “He’s one of those few members of the Senate who understands the business side and gets how the business has to operate,” said Castellani.