Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 | 9:14 a.m.
After beating the odds as handily as he did, Sen. Harry Reid really had no reason to suspect he wouldn’t easily be reelected as majority leader.
In fact, nothing changed about the Democratic Senate leadership. On Wednesday morning, the new crop of Democratic senators who will serve in the 113th Congress voted Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray to another term at the top.
Reid is now set to serve as majority leader longer than powerhouse leaders Lyndon Johnson and Robert Byrd — but not quite as long as Mike Mansfield, the senator from Montana who ran the Senate for the 16 years after Johnson left for the White House.
Reid downplayed his own history-making moment, however, in favor of singing the praises of Patty Murray, the senator who steered the Democrats’ 2012 campaign efforts for the Senate.
“We ran a message, led by Senator Murray, from Montana to Massachusetts,” Reid said, adding that at the caucus elections, he had presented her with “40 red roses, representing her 20 years in the senate plus the 20 women that are now in the United States Senate.”
Murray pulled off something that a year ago not even Reid was predicting. Democrats were expected to lose seats in the 2012 election, potentially enough that they would lose the majority in the Senate. Instead, they gained seats. Democrats now have a 55-seat majority in the Senate.
But there’s already speculation they may start to lose some of that edge, at least marginally.
The resignation of Gen. David Petraeus as head of the Central Intelligence Agency has exacerbated an already tenuous transition period in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. While Obama has not made official appointments to replace the outgoing members of his leadership team, rumors have been flying that he might tap Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts to head up either the Department of State or Defense.
Kerry, a Vietnam veteran and former presidential candidate, has been leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since Joe Biden stepped down to become vice president. He’s also from a state where Democrats just scored a very close win when Elizabeth Warren beat Republican Scott Brown.
Reid refused to show his hand on what would happen with Kerry, telling reporters that “there is no better legislator that I have served with” and that “any conversations I have had with John Kerry, he does not bring up being secretary of anything.”
But Reid said he would support Kerry if he were selected for a Cabinet post and scoffed at the notion that Kerry leaving might open up the seat to the now-deposed Brown or another Republican.
Reid directed a personal rejoinder to Brown, who recently spoke about how he thought the Senate should embrace more of the bipartisanship he believed he had embodied in his three years in Congress.
“I saw during the campaign his plea for bipartisanship; that is a big joke,” Reid said. “It’s a travesty. He was one of the most partisan people that’s ever served here...I don’t need a lecture from him on bipartisanship. He should look in the mirror.”
Brown’s record in the Senate actually does make him the least-partisan Republican in the Senate currently serving. But a tense and highly partisan environment means aisle-crossing doesn’t happen often.
Were Kerry to be appointed to a Cabinet post, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, would appoint a replacement. But state law would require a special election for the seat to be called in 145 to 160 days after Kerry’s departure.