Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., joined a handful of other centrists-Democrats in voting against Nevada Sen. Harry Reid to be the caucus’ minority leader for the 114th Congress beginning in January. McCaskill said she made her decision in the wake of last week's election, which she said showed that Missouri voters want change.
Senate Democrats, met for several hours Thursday, in the Capitol’s historic Old Senate Chamber for discussions that McCaskill said included “a lot of consternation.” McCaskill said she did not “feel ostracized” in voicing opposition to Reid as minority leader. “Everyone took it really well,” she said.
Reid was elected on a secret yes-or-no ballots he did not face opposition. McCaskill says she looks forward to working with Reid and his leadership team.
Asked if Reid was now a weaker leader after the meeting and the outcome of the election, she said, “I think he’s a stronger leader because I think this was a really important moment for our caucus … and I think he will be strengthened by what happened, not weakened.”
McCaskill dismissed questions that her decision appeared to be a strategic move for future political reasons. “This is just what I believe, and I have a tendency to say what I believe.”
When a reporter suggested that the move “increased speculation” about McCaskill’s gubernatorial ambitions, the senator quipped, “I think at this point I could brush my teeth and it would in-fact increase speculation about what I’m doing in Missouri.” She said she is only talking about one thing in Missouri. “We have a very, very critical moment in our state; and I don’t think it’s time to talk about the politics of 2016 right now, I’m just talking about Ferguson,” she said.
Red state Democrats
Asked what role she and other “Red State Democrats” might play in the upcoming Republican-controlled Congress, McCaskill said, “I’m going to do what I have done since the day I got here, I’m going to work with Republicans when they’re doing things I agree with and I’m going to fight with Republicans when they’re trying to advance agendas that I think are damaging to things that are important to Missourians, so none of that changes.
Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, asked about McCaskill’s vote against Reid, said, “You can just put that on the list of things that Sen. McCaskill and I agree on. It might not be a very long list, but now near the head of that list was that Harry Reid has not been a good majority leader.” Blunt added that “the Senate has to change and Democrats like Sen. McCaskill recognize that - just as Republicans have been saying for all the time that I’ve been in the Senate, which is four years now.”
Blunt says Republicans have an opportunity to make the Senate function better than it did under Reid; and he says McCaskill is just one of several Democrats with whom Republicans could work with to make that happen.
The Senate Republican Conference re-elected Blunt as its vice chairman for the new Congress and House Republicans re-elected Ballwin Rep. Ann Wagoner as the party’s senior deputy whip. Wagner says she and Blunt plan to meet early next week to discuss mutual plans to benefit the state and what she called a “functioning Congress.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, was also re-elected to his leadership position – as the number two ranking Democrat in the Senate.