Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, wants to see Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, replace him as Democratic leader after he retires, spokesman Adam Jentleson told CBS News.
"It's the caucus' decision but Senator Reid thinks Senator Schumer has earned it," Jentleson said.
His endorsement was first reported by the Washington Post. Reid told the Los Angeles Times, "Schumer, in 22 months , if he plays his cards right, should be able to do it," And he said to Schumer, "[I]f you need my help you got it."
Reid announced his retirement Friday, setting up speculation about who might replace him as leader. His two deputies, Schumer and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, were considered the top top contenders. But Durbin quickly threw his support to Schumer, an aide to the Illinois senator tells CBS News, defusing what could have been an intense battle.
A spokesman said Durbin called Schumer late last night to express his support. Durbin intends to run again for Democratic senate whip, the caucus's number-two position, in the next Congress.
Schumer, for his part, began lining up support for his bid to become minority leader almost immediately after he learned of Reid's retirement. When Reid told Schumer he was not running again, he encouraged the New York senator to make calls to shore up support, a person close to Schumer tells CBS News' Nancy Cordes. Schumer spent most of the day making calls to colleagues and receiving calls from colleagues urging him to run. By the middle of the day, he had commitments of support from the overwhelming majority of the caucus.
Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat, issued a statement praising Reid for "his strength, his legislative acumen, his honesty and his determination." Durbin's statement also praised Reid as "one of the ablest leaders of the Senate Democratic caucus in modern history."