Changing Of The Guard Among Senate Democrats

The selection of Sen. Joe Biden (Del.) as the Democratic vice presidential nominee is the latest sign that a quiet, slow-moving "changing of the guard" is underway among Senate Democrats.

If Barack Obama wins the White House, and Biden becomes president of the Senate - a duty of the vice presidency - it would remove a 35-year veteran from Senate Democratic ranks and put the gavel of the Foreign Relations Committee in less experienced hands.

Biden's expected VP nomination comes as Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is battling a deadly brain tumor and has undergone radiation and chemotherapy treatments after surgery to remove the tumor in June. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has taken over as "temporary chairwoman" of the panel in Kennedy's absence, but there is no telling what the next Congress will bring on this front.

Some Democrats have quietly campaigned to remove the 90-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) as chairman of the Appropriations Committee. While Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) refused to sanction any effort to oust Byrd, who mentored Reid on Appropriations when the Nevada Democrat first came to the Senate, Reid may find it hard to resist calls for change atop the panel next year. Several Democratic senators expect the battle over the Appropriations Committee to be renewed in the 111th Congress, particularly if President Obama needs strong help in pushing through his own budget for FY 2010.

In addition, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), has faced heavy criticism within Democratic ranks over his support for Sen. John McCain's presidential run. Lieberman is even being suggested as a VP pick for McCain.

If Democrats pick up Senate seats in the fall - and at this point, it's a question of just how many they will win in November - Reid will be under pressure to strip Lieberman of his chairman's gavel at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Similar to the Byrd situation, Reid so far has refused to make any  move against Lieberman since it could cost Democrats their Senate majority. Lieberman could switch votes and back Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for majority leader, which would end Reid's tenure in the post, at least in the short term. While McConnell would likely only be in that post for a remainder of this Congress, it would be a problem for Democrats come September or a lame-duck session.
Continue reading post...