War­ren gets top Demo­cratic lead­er­ship job

Se­na­tor poised to emerge from Reid shadow

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

The me­te­oric po­lit­i­cal rise of Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts as a lib­eral rab­bler­ouser landed her a job on Se­nate Democrats’ lead­er­ship team Thurs­day, as the party voted to re­turn all of the top lead­ers who presided over last week’s dev­as­tat­ing elec­tion losses.

Se­nate Majority Leader Harry Reid named Ms. War­ren as a strate­gic ad­viser to help craft the mes­sage at the Demo­cratic Pol­icy and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mit­tee. The newly cre­ated post was de­signed to in­fuse the cham­ber’s new Demo­cratic mi­nor­ity with Ms. War­ren’s lib­eral vigor.

“Somebody asked me on the way in here, ‘El­iz­a­beth War­ren is go­ing to be part of your lead­er­ship; what do you ex­pect her to do?’ I ex­pect her to be El­iz­a­beth War­ren,” Mr. Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, said at the Capi­tol when an­nounc­ing the move.

Ms. War­ren, a fresh­man with just two years in the Se­nate un­der her belt, didn’t dis­ap­point, step­ping past Mr. Reid to ad­dress a crowd of re­porters wait­ing to hear the lead­er­ship elec­tion re­sults.

“I be­lieve in what the Democrats are fight­ing for. You know, Wall Street is do­ing very well, CEOs are bring­ing in mil­lions more, and fam­i­lies all across this coun­try are strug­gling,” she said. “We have to make this gov­ern­ment work for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. And that’s what we’re here to fight for. And I am grate­ful to the leader. I am grate­ful to the cau­cus for giv­ing me a chance to be part of that fight.”

Al­ready sound­ing like Ms. War­ren, Mr. Reid and the rest of the re­turned lead­er­ship team pledged that in the mi­nor­ity next year, they will strive to im­prove the lives of mid­dle-class Americans.

Mr. Reid and his fel­low Democrats have al­ready sig­naled a new ap­proach for the rest of this year, where they re­main in con­trol in the Se­nate’s lame-duck ses­sion.

He has agreed to al­low votes on build­ing the Key­stone XL pipe­line and on a bill to can­cel the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency’s phone-snoop­ing pro­gram — both of which had been de­layed for months amid in­ter­nal Demo­cratic Party ten­sions ahead of the midterm vote.

Even as Mr. Reid moved to get past those fights, Repub­li­cans are em­broiled in one of their own: whether to use a loom­ing spend­ing de­bate to try to pre­vent Pres­i­dent Obama from tak­ing uni­lat­eral ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion to grant work per­mits to il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Pres­sure is grow­ing on GOP lead­ers from party con­ser­va­tives to in­sist that the spend­ing bill in­clude such lan­guage, but that could force a gov­ern­ment shut­down show­down sim­i­lar to last year’s Oba­macare fight. In­com­ing Se­nate Majority Leader Mitch McCon­nell, the Ken­tucky Repub­li­can who will take over run­ning the cham­ber from Mr. Reid in Jan­uary, flatly ruled out go­ing that far.

Ris­ing star

Among Democrats, the 65-year-old Ms. War­ren is a ris­ing star. The Har­vard law pro­fes­sor in 2012 cap­tured the Se­nate seat once oc­cu­pied by the late Sen. Ed­ward Kennedy, de­feat­ing tea party dar­ling Sen. Scott Brown.

Ms. War­ren ran for the Se­nate after watch­ing Repub­li­cans at­tack her for her work set­ting up the Con­sumer Fi­nan­cial Pro­tec­tion Bureau, a part of the Wall Street over­haul leg­is­la­tion that passed after the 2008 crash. Repub­li­cans say the CFPB has too much unchecked power, and their op­po­si­tion helped prod Mr. Obama to pick some­one else to head the agency, pass­ing over Ms. War­ren, who’d been in­terim di­rec­tor for a year.

On the cam­paign trail this year, Ms. War­ren’s pop­ulist stump speech was in high de­mand. Pro­gres­sives have looked to her as a po­ten­tial chal­lenger to Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent in 2016, though she in­sists she’s not in­ter­ested in a White House run.

Adding her to the lead­er­ship team both lent some of her star power to the fa­mil­iar Se­nate Demo­cratic lead­er­ship lineup and pla­cated lib­er­als who want to see the party’s lead­ers tilt in a more pro­gres­sive di­rec­tion.

“El­iz­a­beth War­ren was the most popular cam­paigner this cy­cle for a rea­son: She ad­vo­cates for big ideas like re­form­ing Wall Street, mak­ing col­lege af­ford­able and ex­pand­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity ben­e­fits,” said Laura Frieden­bach of the Pro­gres­sive Change Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, a lib­eral ad­vo­cacy group that has been a strong backer of Ms. War­ren’s po­lit­i­cal rise.

“Now her voice will be even louder, be­cause she’ll be at the Demo­cratic lead­er­ship ta­ble — and the Demo­cratic Party will ben­e­fit from it,” said Ms. Frieden­bach. “The path to vic­tory for Democrats in 2016 is to cam­paign on El­iz­a­beth War­ren’s eco­nomic pop­ulist agenda.”

Her ap­point­ment also res­onated with lib­eral se­na­tors.

“Her voice is a very im­por­tant voice,” said Sen. Ben­jamin L. Cardin, Maryland Demo­crat. “What needs to be changed is how ef­fec­tive we are rep­re­sent­ing the val­ues of mid­dle-in­come fam­i­lies. We’ve got to be more ef­fec­tive in do­ing that. … That’s our base.”

Mr. Reid also sought to bal­ance the new lead­er­ship team — or tem­per the in­flu­ence of Ms. War­ren — by ap­point­ing Min­nesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar as a spe­cial li­ai­son to Repub­li­cans. She’s a popular law­maker on Capi­tol Hill, known for work­ing across the aisle.

“The idea here is to break through the grid­lock, to start hav­ing votes again,” said Ms. Klobuchar. “We will take [Repub­li­cans] at their word when they say they want to move with us and move this econ­omy for­ward and get go­ing. I think it’s an op­por­tu­nity. And we need to seize it.”

Op­po­si­tion to Reid

The ap­point­ments were an­nounced fol­low­ing a four-hour cau­cus meet­ing where Se­nate Democrats aired their griev­ances about grid­lock in the cham­ber un­der Mr. Reid. They then re­elected him as their leader for when the new Congress con­venes in Jan­uary.

Mr. Reid did not face a chal­lenger in lead­er­ship vote. But at least five Se­nate Democrats op­posed him in the se­cret bal­lot vote.

Se­na­tors who ad­mit­ted vot­ing “no” were Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin III of West Vir­ginia, Claire McCaskill of Mis­souri, Mark R. Warner of Vir­ginia and Mary L. Lan­drieu of Louisiana, who is in an up­hill bat­tle to keep her seat in a Dec. 6 runoff elec­tion against a Repub­li­can chal­lenger.

“When you have an elec­tion like this, common sense says we need to change things,” Ms. McCaskill said in an in­ter­view. “The [elec­torate’s] voice was very loud and un­mis­tak­able that most Americans and most Mis­souri­ans want to change things. To me, that means chang­ing lead­er­ship, and it was just that sim­ple.”

Still, Mr. Reid and the rest of the lead­er­ship team won support from most of the cau­cus, which is ex­pected to in­clude 46 mem­bers in the new mi­nor­ity.

The cau­cus re­turned Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illi­nois as as­sis­tant leader, Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York as chair­man of the DPCC, Sen. Patty Mur­ray of Wash­ing­ton as chair­woman of the con­fer­ence and Sen. Deb­bie Stabenow of Michi­gan as vice chair­woman of the DPCC.

House and Se­nate Repub­li­cans also voted Thurs­day to re­turn their lead­er­ship teams es­sen­tially in­tact, con­firm­ing Mr. McCon­nell as the new Se­nate majority leader and keep­ing House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio as the top of­fi­cial in the House.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, Mas­sachusetts Demo­crat (back­ground), was tapped by Se­nate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat (fore­ground), to as­say the newly cre­ated po­si­tion of strate­gic ad­viser for the Demo­cratic Pol­icy and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mit­tee...

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