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Which way will Chuck Schumer jump after the midterms: Senate Banking or Democratic leadership?

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Senate,Senate Democratic Conference,Harry Reid,Chuck Schumer,Senate Banking Committee,Kevin Daley

As odds rise that Republicans will seize control of the U.S. Senate, there's speculation over Sen. Chuck Schumer's future in the Democratic leadership, which could see major shakeups if relegated to minority status.

His industry allies hope he will assume chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee in the next Congress. That's what he's most likely to do if Democrats keep control of the chamber.

Schumer, D-N.Y., is currently the committee's No. 3 Democrat, but has a realistic path to the chairmanship. The current chairman, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is retiring and the committee's next ranking Democrat, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., will become the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee after 2014. That leaves Schumer as next in line.

But If Republicans seize control of the upper chamber, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might not keep his job -- and may also be open to retirement rather than seeking re-election in 2016.

Reid’s departure would leave a major power vacuum among Senate Democrats, one most likely filled by Schumer, the powerful Rules Committee chairman who has aggressively, if patiently, pursued the Democratic leadership post for years.

For now, Schumer is vice chairman of the Democratic Conference. He has previously served two terms at the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the party organ for candidate recruitment and fundraising. In that capacity, Schumer engineered the party's 2006 takeover of the Senate and led Democrats to a filibuster-proof majority in 2008. He's continued to donate lavishly to Senate Democratic candidates, and currently boasts more than $12 million cash on hand, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. His leadership of the DSCC bought him many friends among his fellow Senate Democrats.

However, Schumer's close ties to Wall Street and the finance industry would make him an unlikely leader for a party with an ascendent progressive wing. In the era of Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren, Schumer has had to carefully balance his reputation as Wall Street's top Democratic ally and his obligations to his party.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform bill placed Schumer in a particularly awkward position, as his attempts to take a more moderate tack alienated liberals and the lords of finance in equal measure. Though condemned by some Wall Street executives, Schumer still beat back derivatives regulation during the Dodd-Frank fight, while former aide Kate Childress led Wall Street's anti-regulation counterattack from her office at JP Morgan. He also helped gut the "Volcker Rule," a provision limiting speculative investment.

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Kevin Daley

Special to the Examiner
The Washington Examiner

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