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Harry Reid to Lead Senate Dems Again, Despite Midterm Election Implosion

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"We tried to have votes."

Democrats voted Thursday to have Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lead them in the Senate next year, even though Reid's performance as Senate majority leader was widely seen as a contributing factor to the Democrats' crushing midterm election losses last week.

Democrats emerged from a four-hour meeting Thursday morning to announce that Reid would remain in his leadership post, in a Senate that is expected to see a 54-seat GOP majority. Democrats also elected to give Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) a communications role among Senate leaders, a bid to give her a higher profile in light of her popularity with Democrats.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 1.15.57 PM Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was elected by Democrats to lead them again in the Senate next year, when it will have a Republican majority.
Photo credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The meeting stretched for hours because 28 Democrats got up to spoke about why they lost the election, and what they need to do to win the Senate back. Reid and other Democrats said it was a constructive meeting, and said they would refocus on ways to help the middle class.

"We have to create an atmosphere where the middle class feels that we're fighting for them," Reid said.

While the retirement of several Democrats was a big factor in the Democrats' loss of their Senate majority, many analysts agreed that Reid essentially shut down the Senate for the last several years, which may have made it harder for some Democrats to convince their constituents to vote for them again.

Some Republicans noted that many Democratic senators haven't had a vote on a single amendment since they've been in the Senate.

Reid rejected this argument Thursday, and said it was Republicans who stopped the Senate from voting.

"We tried to have votes," he said. "Republicans made a decision after Obama was first elected, that they were going to oppose everything that he wanted, and that's what they done."

"So anyone thinking that I stopped votes from occurring is simply not valid," he said.

Despite that claim, one example of how Reid has held up votes the Senate could be seen already this week. Throughout 2014, Reid didn't allow a vote on stand-alone legislation authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, as it probably would have passed, and is something the Obama administration opposes.

He did offer amendments on Keystone, but only as part of proposed agreements to pass other bills that Republicans opposed.

But in an effort to help Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) win her runoff election in December, Reid suddenly relented on Wednesday, and agreed to hold a vote next week on Keystone. The decision was highlighted by Republicans as proof that Reid has used the Senate to advance the Democratic Party instead of the American people.

Just before Senate Democrats voted for Reid, Roll Call reported that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said she would not vote for Reid. Roll Call said McCaskill for years has called on Reid to find more common ground with Republicans.

Earlier in the day, Senate Republicans unanimously elected Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as the next majority leader in the Senate when Republicans take over next year.

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