Senate Democratic leaders “last week shelved a caucus proposal that might have stripped some committee chairmen of their gavels by removing the seniority system,” Roll Call reports.
Junior Members such as Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Benjamin Cardin (Md.) have been pushing a change to the Democratic caucus rules that would allow chairmen to be chosen by a secret ballot vote rather than by seniority.
Veteran lawmakers who benefit from the current system have opposed the change.
Democratic leaders discussed the issue at their morning meeting Thursday and agreed to try to quietly tamp down enthusiasm for the change, according to Senate sources.
Later that day when the issue was brought up at the caucus’ weekly luncheon, leader-approved surrogates presented the opposition to the rules change. While it was unclear who presented for the opposition, the individual was said to have pointed to the success of the current chairmen and the leadership they have provided.
Senator Brown “left the meeting with a sense that there was still a chance for a vote in the caucus on the issue.”
A spokeswoman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) echoed that, saying “conversations are ongoing.”
But knowledgeable sources said the issue is likely dead for this Congress, given the large split within the caucus over the proposal.
“I don’t see huge momentum behind it,” one Democratic aide said.
During the leadership meeting, sources said, Reid urged those present to oppose the measure; however, he did not repeat those sentiments during the caucus meeting that afternoon.