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Harry Reid Unveils New Leadership Team, Strategy (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated Nov. 13 7:02 |Sen. Harry Reid survived a four-hour meeting with his Democratic flock with his job as their leader intact, albeit without unanimous support, as he debuted three new members of his leadership team and promised to work with Republicans to legislate.  

His leadership team has three new members: Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., a moderate who is the new head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who is chairwoman of Steering and Outreach; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has a newly created post to reach out to the progressive wing of the party.  

The new team gives both moderates and progressives a seat at the leadership table, though the top positions in the party have not changed a bit.  

“We have to continue fighting for the middle class,” Reid said. “The middle class is what is concerning every one of my senators. They’re not getting a fair shot and we are going to do everything we can in the 114th Congress to make sure the middle class of this great country of ours has a fair shot.”  

Other senators said there was a good bit of soul-searching among the 28 senators who spoke as they sought a path forward from the electoral drubbing last week.  

“One of the reasons why this is one of the longer caucuses we’ve ever had is because we’re honest with each other and straightforward and clear about the message the voters sent,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.  

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., said the discussion was frank.  

“Basically we discussed everything that happened, everything that went wrong for the last four years, everything that we could do differently and everything that didn’t connect with the American people,” Manchin said.  

They discussed Reid’s decision to protect their politically vulnerable members by avoiding taking tough votes, a move that appears to have backfired. “You can second guess that all day long, but the system has to work,” said Manchin, who has been a vocal critic of the strategy. “Whether it works for you or against you, that’s democracy.”  

Manchin said a group of senators called for a vote on Reid to become minority leader and that it was not unanimous. The vote was by secret ballot. He declined to say who voted against Reid, though his office later said he voted against the leader.  

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. , also voted against Reid.  

“The clearest message from the recent election is that Congress needs to change and get to work.  We need to show the American people that we hear them by implementing real, tangible changes to help restore trust,” Heitkamp said in an email from her office.  

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., also voted against Reid because, according to an aide, he wanted a more thorough conversation within the caucus before moving ahead.  

“Senator Kaine voted no because he believes the caucus should have had a more thorough discussion on strategy before taking a leadership vote. Now he wants to get back to work and move forward with the caucus,” the aide said in an email.  

His fellow Virginian, Democrat Mark Warner was also a ‘no’ vote.  

“I was one of the ‘no’ votes,” Warner said in a statement. “The message I heard on the campaign trail was that Virginians are frustrated with the dysfunction and gridlock that has become the status quo in Washington. That has to change. We need an open process where we debate and vote on the serious issues we face, and I have been encouraged by statements from both leaders that they are determined to make the United States Senate a functioning body once again.  The American people are demanding it; we owe them no less.”  

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., had made it known on her way in to the meeting that she would oppose Reid.  

“To me, when you have an election like this, common sense says we need to change things,” McCaskill said after the meeting. “The voice was very loud and unmistakable that most Americans and most Missourians want us to change things. To me, that means changing leadership.”  

She said there was not an alternative on the ballot.  

The move had some speculating that McCaskill could be interested in running for governor of Missouri.  

When asked, McCaskill declined to address the issue. “I’m not going to talk about that right now,” she said.  

Looking ahead, Democrats signaled that that have no intention of trying to obstruct as they had criticized Republicans for doing.  

“There was no talk of obstructing. There was talk about us getting back to work and doing our work on behalf of the American people; the things that we know the Americans agree with us on, which is the vast majority of the stuff we have worked on,” McCaskill said. “But the message has been drowned out by the political back biting and there [are] a lot of us who feel that it’s time for us to not mimic what the Republicans did, but rise above that and try to work together.”  

Reid said he doesn’t want “get even.”  

“I do no intend to run the caucus like the Republican caucus has been run in the minority,” Reid said. “For example, I just told Amy Klobuchar to get me a list of [bipartisan bills] and see if we can get the Republicans to agree if they want to pass bipartisan bills.”  

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