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Harry Reid creates special leadership job for Chuck Schumer

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Filed: Timeline

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to overhaul the Senate Democratic leadership next year, handing New York Sen. Chuck Schumer an expanded role spearheading the party's messaging efforts.

In a letter obtained by POLITICO, Reid tells his colleagues that the party needs to "better integrate our legislative- and message-crafting functions into a coordinated nucleus managing policy, press and politics."

As a result, he said, the Senate leadership will unite its policy arm with its communications center into a "joint operation" run by Schumer.

"I have asked Senator Schumer, whose communications abilities and tactical skills we all greatly respect, to lead this effort as chairman of the new office."

Reid, who eked out a hard-fought reelection victory earlier this month, clearly senses the need to improve his caucus’ political operations in the face of an emboldened Republican Party that now will control 47 seats in the Senate and a powerful House majority.

In addition to moving senators into key spots, Reid is making a shift in his leadership office, according to sources involved with the internal talks.

David Krone, a top political aide for the majority leader, will assume the chief of staff position, the sources say. Krone will take over for Gary Myrick, who will soon be named secretary of the Senate majority, a critical position that puts him in the middle of procedural and policy disputes on the Senate floor.

At the same time, Reid wants to sharpen his party’s communications apparatus by tying it more closely to the policy and procedural decisions that dominate the media’s attention.

Schumer has long been seen as a hard-nosed political tactician – and Reid said he’d name Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow to serve under the New York Democrat as vice chairwoman in order to put new emphasis in that area.

At the same time, Reid wants to promote Alaska Sen. Mark Begich to now lead the Steering and Outreach Committee, which helps set committee assignments.

The leadership shuffle was spurred in part by the retirement of North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, the current chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, which helps formulate policy positions for the caucus.

Democrats – particularly recently elected senators – often complained that they failed to effectively gain ground politically from their legislative proposals, and they hope the new effort will change that.

Reid said he asked Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow to serve as the new office's vice chairman — and Alaska Sen. Mark Begich will now lead the Steering and Outreach Committee, which helps set committee assignments.

"Whatever changes we make, our charge remains the same: coordinating our caucus as effectively as possible so we can accomplish our number-one responsibility: getting people back to work," Reid said.

What remains to be seen is who Reid will select to run the powerful Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is in charge of recruiting candidates for Senate races and tasked with helping keep the party in the majority in the 2012 elections. Several potential chairmen have declined Reid’s invitation to run the committee, in the face of a potentially daunting election year where Democrats have more than twice as many seats in cycle than Republicans do.

Reid’s decision represents a big promotion for Begich, who was elected in 2008, and he could use the post as a stepping stone to a more senior leadership position. It also adds to the table of senior senators a voice of a more junior Democrat from a Republican state.

In the current Congress, Stabenow chaired the Steering Committee, and had suggested to Reid that he combine her position with the Democratic Policy Committee spot. By giving Stabenow a spot as vice chair, Stabenow now has added influence to the strategy and political tactics of the Democratic majority, which will stand at 53-47 next Congress.

“This is a good move. It’s going to help us better communicate our policies to middle class Americans and move the country forward in passing meaningful legislation that will help create jobs and get our economy back on track,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). “I think this is a change for the better.”

The leadership team will be rounded out by Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the conference secretary, and Senate Majority Whip ####### Durbin (D-Ill.), No. 2 in the leadership. Durbin and Schumer are seen as the most likely successors to Reid when he ultimately decides not to continue as majority leader.

Tuesday morning, Democratic leaders will formally vote to ratify the selections for the 112th Congress.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1110/45148.html#ixzz15TW3QLxK

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