But even with a majority, Democrats can't count on steam rolling through everything they want. One reason is a Senate delay tactic called the "filibuster," which can block most any bill, CBS News correspondent Sharyl Alfonsi reports.
A look at the new Democratic leaders and committee chairmen in the U.S. Senate when a new Congress convenes in January. Senate Democrats, including new members elected this week, will caucus next Tuesday to formally pick their leaders.
Majority Leader: Harry Reid, D-Nev. Reid's no-nonsense, plainspoken style reflects his origins, growing up in a cabin in the tiny community of Searchlight, Nev. Once an amateur boxer and an official fighting organized crime in his home state, he won a House seat in 1982 and moved to the Senate four years later. Reid, 66, served as former Democratic leader Tom Daschle's deputy for six years until Daschle lost his re-election bid in 2004. Since becoming Democratic leader in 2005, Reid has continued to fight for Democratic causes such as an increase in the minimum wage and opposition to President Bush's tax cuts. But as a practicing Mormon, he has also at times sided with Republicans on legislation opposing abortion. Assistant Majority Leader: Dick Durbin, D-Ill. Durbin, 62, joined the staff of former Illinois Democratic Sen. Paul Simon after graduating from law school. He entered the House in 1982 as a representative from the Springfield area. Durbin served seven terms in the House before succeeding Simon, who retired from the Senate in 1996. A lawmaker with strong liberal credentials and a smooth speaking style, he frequently represents his party on TV talk shows. A skilled parliamentarian, he also was a natural successor to then-party whip Harry Reid when Reid became Democratic leader in 2005. Durbin has been an advocate of gun control and was an early critic of how the war in Iraq was being carried out. Agriculture: Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Harkin, 66, remains an idealistic but pragmatic liberal after more than two decades in the Senate. He was a principal author of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. His previous brief chairmanship of the committee and championing of farm subsidies helped him four years ago overpower a conservative challenger in a swing state. Appropriations: Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. Byrd, the longest-serving member of the Senate, has held more Senate party leadership positions — including two terms as majority leader — than anyone. Now 88, he has grown increasingly liberal since his first statewide race in 1946. Byrd joined the Appropriations Committee in 1959 and chaired it from 1989 to 1994 and again in 2001. His control of the panel and its role in federal spending prompted critics to label him "the king of pork-barrel politics." Armed Services: Carl Levin, D-Mich. Levin, 72, is the longest-serving U.S. senator from Michigan. A Harvard-trained lawyer with a strong work ethic, he has been a persistent critic of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq, leading an unsuccessful June 2006 effort to pass a nonbinding proposal urging President Bush to begin withdrawal of troops from Iraq by the end of the year. He has a liberal voting record on many social issues. Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs: Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. Ranking Democrat Paul Sarbanes, 73, is retiring after his current term, leaving his chairmanship open. Dodd is next in line, and would most likely sacrifice the Rules and Administration chairmanship to take the gavel here. Dodd, 62, is a liberal pragmatist who has sought Democratic leadership posts in the past. Budget: Kent Conrad, D-N.D. Known for his love of charts and a passion for the budget process, Conrad, 58, is a moderate Democrat who has been a vocal critic of many of the Bush administration's fiscal policies. He worked to reduce the federal budget deficit and is particularly critical of U.S. debt to other countries. He briefly became chairman of the Senate Budget Committee when Democrats gained control of the Senate in 2001, but resumed his role as vocal opposition leader when the Republicans regained their majority status in 2003. Commerce, Science, and Transportation: Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii. Inouye, 82, the first Japanese-American to serve in Congress, broke racial barriers on Capitol Hill. Known as a private man, Inouye lost an arm in World War II and was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in 2000. He lost a bid to become Senate Majority Leader in 1989, but remained a power broker — he holds a seat on the Appropriations Committee and once chaired the Indian Affairs Committee. Energy and Natural Resources: Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. Bingaman, 63, has carved out a reputation on Capitol Hill as a no-frills legislator who eschews the limelight. Bingaman helped craft and supported the 2005 energy bill, although he had wanted more incentives, including tax breaks, for conservation and development of renewable energy sources. He complained bitterly in 2003 when Republicans shut Democrats out of energy negotiations and said that was one reason legislation failed to pass that year. Environment and Public Works: Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. Republican-turned-independent James Jeffords is the ranking minority member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, but he's retiring this year. It's unclear who will take the gavel, but the 65-year-old Boxer — one of the Senate's most liberal members — could be next in line. Committee Democrats with seniority over Boxer would likely opt for chairmanships elsewhere, such as in the case of Max Baucus, who would wield the gavel for the Finance Committee. Finance: Max Baucus, D-Mont. Baucus, 64, has played increasingly visible roles in Congress, sometimes willing to buck his party on certain issues. He supported the president's $1.35 trillion tax cut in 2001, when he briefly held the Finance Committee chairmanship after Sen. Jim Jeffords' defection from the GOP gave Democrats control of the Senate. He works well with the current Republican chairman. But in early 2005, Baucus loudly criticized the Bush administration's plan to add private accounts to Social Security. Foreign Relations: Joseph Biden, D-Del. Biden, 63, a six-term senator and consistent Democratic voice, has chaired the Foreign Relations Committee before and is one of the most influential foreign policy voices in Congress. An internationalist and strong supporter of the United Nations, Biden's views on the war in Iraq frequently place him at odds with the administration and in front of the cameras on Sunday morning talk shows. He has called for the firing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who resigned on Wednesday, and has opposed President Bush's selection of John Bolton as U.N. Ambassador. Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions: Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Kennedy, 74, the "liberal lion" of the Senate, continues to march into contentious rhetorical battles with his ideological opposition. He is a leading critic of President Bush and his decision to go to war in Iraq and has criticized Mr. Bush's proposals on health care. Kennedy stood beside the president when he signed the No Child Left Behind education reform legislation, but has since disparaged the bill's implementation. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. Lieberman, 64, lost the 2006 Democratic primary to millionaire businessman Ned Lamont, who criticized Lieberman's support for the war in Iraq and linked him to the unpopular president. But Lieberman won the election as an independent and has pledged to align himself with Democrats. Indian Affairs: Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. As a member of his party's leadership, Dorgan, 64, often appears torn between national Democrats in Washington and more conservative voters in North Dakota. As chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, Dorgan has led hearings on government accountability issues related to the Iraq war and hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. But he was in the minority of Democrats who voted in 2002 to authorize force in Iraq and was one of only eight Democrats who voted to approve John Ashcroft as attorney general. A persistent populist critic of the rich and powerful, Dorgan made headlines in 2005 when he called for a windfall profits tax on major oil companies. Judiciary: Arlem Specter, R-Penn., gets bumped by Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Leahy, 66, who has emerged as one of the leading critics of Bush administration policies, ranging from judicial appointments to combating terrorism. That puts a Democratic filter on any of the President's conservative Supreme Court nominees, meaning it's less likely the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling will be overturned, Sharyl Attkisson reports. When he was chairman in 2001, Republicans accused Leahy of holding up judicial nominations and then said Leahy worked to slow them after Republicans took over. Leahy helped draft the Patriot Act after Sept. 11, but has criticized the administration's implementation of it. Rules and Administration: Connecticut's Dodd is most senior, but he would most likely sacrifice this chairmanship to take the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs gavel. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 73, a tough-talking, consensus-forging moderate, could become chairwoman. Special Committee on Aging: Herb Kohl, D-Wis. Kohl, 71, a soft-spoken multimillionaire, has refused to accept money from special-interest groups and instead used his own personal wealth to fund his campaigns. He voted against President Bush's plan to overhaul Medicare and create a prescription drug benefit and opposed Mr. Bush's proposed changes to Social Security. Select Committee on Ethics: Tim Johnson, D-S.D. Johnson, 59, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004, only a year after beginning his second Senate term. An unassuming and quiet lawmaker, he has amassed a generally liberal voting record on Capitol Hill. But he calls himself a middle-of-the-road Democrat and supports conservative positions on social issues such as abortion. Select Committee on Intelligence: John Rockefeller, D-W. Va. Rockefeller, 69, is a Democratic partisan with national influence because of his role on the Intelligence Committee. He was one of 17 senators to vote against the nomination of former Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, saying Goss was too partisan. But he partnered with the Republican Intelligence chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas to issue a damning report on the CIA's intelligence gathering in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Small Business and Entrepreneurship: John Kerry, D-Mass. Kerry, 63, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, will be able to add Small Business Committee chairman to his resume — again — if he runs for president — again — in 2008. Criticized for his fuzzy stand on Iraq, Kerry in October 2005 made headlines with his call for a phased withdraw of U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2006. He touted the health care proposals he formulated as a presidential candidate from his post in the Senate. Veterans Affairs: Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii. Akaka, the first Native Hawaiian ever elected to Congress, has spent his low-key career protecting the interests of his state and Native Hawaiians. In 1995, Akaka, 82, sponsored legislation directing the Army and Navy to review service records of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who received the Distinguished Service Cross to determine whether their awards should be upgraded. As a result of the review, in June 2000, 22 Asian-American veterans of World War II, most of them from Hawaii, were awarded the Medal of Honor — 15 of them posthumously.
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