U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is backing New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to take the place of outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as the chamber’s top Democrat. Reid announced early Friday that he will not seek re-election next year. Because of his leadership role, Durbin had been seen as a possible contender.
The 75-year-old Reid is recovering from a devastating exercising accident suffered in January, which nearly left him blind in his right eye. Reid’s announcement came in a video released by his office only hours after the Senate had completed a more than 15-hour marathon session to amend the Republican Senate Budget Resolution.
Durbin, a Senate Democratic whip since 2005, is the number two Democrat in the Senate. First elected to the U.S. House in 1982, and then to the Senate in 1996, Durbin is seen by many on Capitol Hill and in Illinois as a no-nonsense and politically savvy leader.
Clearly a champion of liberal causes, especially human and civil rights issues, Durbin is also quick to back legislation with some of the Senate’s most conservative Republicans. In February, Durbin joined Tea Party favorites Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Mike Lee, R-Utah, in co-sponsoring legislation to give federal judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders. At the time, the senators all joked “There isn’t a moderate here, on either side.”
When Durbin was sworn in for his fourth term in January, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, R-Ill., escorted Durbin to the well of the chamber. At the time, Kirk said he was honored to stand with Durbin “as we always have, without partisan divide and together for the people of Illinois.”
In a statement released by his office, Durbin praised Reid, as “one of the ablest leaders of the Senate Democratic caucus in modern history - he has served our country and the people of Nevada with tenacity and passion rarely seen.” But in his statement, Durbin avoided addressing the speculation of whether he would seek the leadership post. “The Senate will miss his leadership and I will miss his friendship, but with the 114th Congress only just underway, Leader Reid and Senate Democrats have a lot of work to do on behalf of working families in this country. I will be by his side every day in that fight.”
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., praised Reid as a fierce fighter for Nevada, working families and the middle class. “We haven’t always agreed on everything, but his innate decency, tenacity and integrity will be missed by all who serve with him.”
McCaskill was among a handful of Senate Democrats who did not support Reid for election as Minority Leader after Senate Democrats lost their majority in last November’s mid-term election.