WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats unanimously agreed on Wednesday to continue with their same leadership team headed by New York Senator Chuck Schumer – marking yet another in a series of leadership elections for the caucus that were decided without a fight.
In fact, it has been 24 years since Senate Democrats have had a contested election – that one pitted Connecticut’s Chris Dodd against South Dakota’s Tom Daschle. Dodd lost by a single vote.
Daschle began campaigning to lead the Senate Democrats in early 1994. He expected to face Tennessee Senator Jim Sasser but Sasser lost his bid for re-election to the Senate. The results of the November general election left Democrats with 47 seats. Dodd, who had supported Sasser, announced his intention to be minority leader in December as the Hartford Courant reported.
When the vote was tallied, Dodd lost 24-23.
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans also selected their leaders for the 116th Congress, and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will continue as majority leader.
House Democrats aren’t voting on their leadership until later this month but a battle is brewing for the top spot although no challenger has emerged to take on California Democrat Nancy Pelosi as she seeks to become House Speaker.
Historically, the majority party rallies behind one of their own to insure that when the House votes in January for House Speaker their candidate wins. As the numbers work, Pelosi would need 218 Democrats to defeat whomever Republicans decide to run for the position. That means she can afford only a handful of defectors as Democrats will hold between 227 and 237 seats at the start of the 116th Congress. (A handful of contests have yet to be decided.)
If Pelosi cannot guarantee the necessary support within her caucus, her opponents hope to find another member who can rally the needed numbers.
House Democrats will also be selecting other top leadership spots including: Majority Leader, Majority Whip, Assistant Democratic Leader or Caucus Chair. No one in the Connecticut delegation is vying for those positions.