Reid’s Likely Successors Are Big Players on Foreign Policy

Reid’s Likely Successors Are Big Players on Foreign Policy

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has publicly backed Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to succeed him as Senate minority leader when he retires at the end of 2016, possibly giving the main pro-Israel lobby a powerful new ally in the upper chamber.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Reid predicted that Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) would step aside to clear the way for Schumer’s ascension. So far Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat, hasn’t said whether he’ll pursue the party’s top leadership post in the Senate. Either way, both lawmakers would provide a more forceful voice on foreign policy than Reid, who has mostly focused on domestic issues.

“If Durbin is leader, I think you might see a bit more engagement — he cares a lot about foreign policy because of the ethnic constituencies in Chicago,” a Senate aide told Foreign Policy. “Schumer cares a lot about [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], but little else.”

Schumer has received more than $258,000 from pro-Israel supporters in the last seven years, making him the 11th-biggest recipient of pro-Israel donations in the Senate, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan research group. Just this week, he signed on as a co-sponsor of legislation that would mandate congressional review of a nuclear deal with Iran, a bill strongly backed by Jerusalem but opposed by the White House.

Durbin is also vocal on foreign policy. He’s called on President Barack Obama to arm Ukraine’s military — a move the White House has resisted but that Chicago’s sizable Ukrainian immigrant community largely supports. He’s also defended the Obama administration’s effort to find a diplomatic solution to restraining Iran’s nuclear program. And Durbin isn’t shy of supporting international issues that don’t always get good buzz — like reforming the Commission on International Religious Freedom or boosting foreign aid for clean water.

“Durbin gets into the weeds and has taken some strong positions on important issues that aren’t always good political sells,” a congressional aide said.

Other, dark-horse contenders who are considered progressive outsiders include Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Patty Murray of Washington. Neither is particularly known for their foreign-policy credentials.

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