Five-time Democratic senator and Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced his retirement Friday, starting a series of events in motion as Democrats look to anoint the first new leader they’ll have had in almost a decade.
News of Reid’s retirement sent the rumor mill swirling. A replacement to the minority leader will officially be determined once he steps down at the end of the 114th Congress. However, the current No. 3 Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, has already begun rallying support.
“I am honored and humbled to have the support of so many of my colleagues and look forward to our Senate Democratic caucus continuing to fight for the middle class,” he said in a statement.
Schumer differs from Reid on some issues, but political watchers aren’t convinced a new top Democrat will usher in a new era for the party in the Senate.
“It’s fair to say Schumer is just as liberal and just as shrewd as Reid,” Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, told The Daily Signal. “Folks shouldn’t be expecting a radical departure from the Democrats’ bankrupt policies and obstructionist tactics.”
Reid’s Republican counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was more subdued, saying he looks forward to working with the minority leader over his last 22 months in Congress.
“Nothing has ever come easily to this son of Searchlight. Underestimated often, his distinctive grit and determined focus nevertheless saw him through many challenges. They continue to make him a formidable opponent today,” McConnell said in a statement. “…I look forward to Senator Reid joining us in the many opportunities we’ll have to accomplish important things for the American people here in the Senate.”
Following his announcement, Reid endorsed Schumer as his successor. If Democrats elect Schumer to fill Reid’s role, the New York Democrat would make the jump from chair of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center to the Senate’s top Democrat, bypassing current Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.
According to the Washington Post, Durbin told Schumer on Thursday night he would support him.
“I don’t think Harry’s going to run,” Durbin told Schumer. “I think you’ve earned this.”
Longtime friends, Schumer and Durbin lived together for more than two decades in a Capitol Hill home that served as the inspiration for the Amazon series “Alpha House.”
Over the years, Schumer has supported Wall Street, despite voting for the Dodd-Frank Act. According to campaign finance records, the New York Democrat received more than $6 million in donations from the finance sector when he ran for reelection in 2010.
He also has been a strong supporter of Israel and called on President Obama to submit details of a deal with Iran to Congress—an appeal that has the backing of Republicans and Democrats alike.
“This issue is far too important–for the United States, for Israel, for the entire Middle East–for Congress not to have any ability to review a nuclear deal with Iran,” Schumer said in a statement.
Historically, a party’s majority and minority leaders serve as the spokesperson for their conference’s positions on certain issues. However, Reid expanded the role throughout his tenure as leader. The Nevada Democrat ruffled Republican feathers by invoking the “nuclear option” and preventing amendments to legislation once it reaches the Senate floor.
Reid has often towed the party line and played a crucial role in the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
The Nevada Democrat announced he wouldn’t be seeking reelection in 2016 in a video posted to his website Friday.
“This accident has caused us for the first time to have a little down time,” Reid said, referencing injuries he sustained while exercising. “I have had time to ponder and to think. We’ve got to be more concerned about the country, the Senate, the state of Nevada, than us, and as a result of that, I’m not going to run for reelection.”
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