WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Democrats Wednesday approved a leadership team that features both old party faithful and some new faces that could represent the party’s future.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer will take over as Senate minority leader when the new Congress takes office in January, a move that has been anticipated ever since current Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid announced his retirement last March.
“I came into this job fully aware of its challenges and what it means that my colleagues trust me to live up to a high standard set by my friend, mentor, my foxhole buddy Harry Reid,” Schumer said at a news conference announcing the leadership changes.
Schumer promised to use his leadership to overcome the party’s surprising loss in last week’s presidential election.
“When you lose an election like this you can’t flinch, you can’t ignore it, you need to look it right in the eye and ask why, analyze it and learn from it,” Schumer said.
Washington Sen. Patty Murray will take over as assistant democratic leader, while Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin will move up to minority whip.
But perhaps the most significant changes come from one senator new to party leadership and another who will now have a larger voice.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has leveraged his surprisingly competitive run for the Democratic presidential nomination into a larger role in a chamber where he once sat firmly on the fringe. Sanders, technically an Independent, will now serve as the party’s chair of outreach.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren will take Murray’s old job as vice chair of the conference.
Warren and Sanders represent a more populist movement within the Democratic party, often tied together for their viral rants against big banks and corporations.
Schumer’s prepared remarks Wednesday gave a nod to the Sanders and Warren wing of the party, promising to fight against special interests and an economy “rigged” against the middle-class.
“Each of us believes we need a sharper, bolder economic message about returning the economic system, which so many feel is rigged against them, to one that works for the people,” Schumer said.
Also new to the leadership team are Sens. Joe Manchin and Tammy Baldwin, who will serve as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and the Senate Democratic Conference secretary, respectively
“Adding Bernie and Tammy and Joe to our team shows we can unite the disparate factions of our party and our country,” Schumer said.