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Schumer Unites Senate Democrats, Brings Sanders On Board

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been rewarded for his loyalty -- and for not turning on Democrats even after it was revealed the national party schemed against his primary campaign -- with a second-tier leadership position in the senate's Democratic caucus.

Sanders wasn't the only Democrat rewarded with a leadership post on Nov. 16, when newly-installed Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer sought to smooth out rivalries and avoid fractures within his recently-demoralized party.

Schumer, New York's senior senator, was poised to become the most powerful legislator in the country if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had won the presidential race and Democrats had taken a majority in the senate, as most polls predicted heading into the election.

Instead, Schumer found himself promising to help retool the party's message to combat President-elect Donald Trump's populism, and to assuage fellow Democrats who want a seat at the table as the party refines its pitch to voters.

For Democrats, it's part of a larger effort to win back the support of blue-collar and middle-class voters after they defected in large numbers to vote for Trump.

“We’ll unite our caucus and speak to the blue-collar worker in West Virginia and Michigan as well as the people who live along the coasts," Schumer said, according to Politico. “We can unite the disparate factions of our party and country. Our whole leadership team is emblematic of that. Our team is ideologically and geographically diverse."

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin will retain his leadership position as minority whip, while Schumer elevated Sen. Paty Murray of Washington as Durbin's deputy.

Sanders was appointed head of outreach for the party as it does some soul-searching after the 2016 presidential campaign loss. The Vermont senator, who mounted a much more serious challenge to Clinton in the primaries than most analysts expected, has been calling for Democrats to reach out to blue-collar voters instead of blaming them for Trump's election.

"I'm going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class and not billionaires," Sanders said after his appointment, according to The Hill.

Joining Sanders in the lower rung of senate Democratic leadership are Sen. Tammy Duckworth and West Virginia's Sen. Joe Manchin.

Duckworth is a veteran of the war in Iraq and is a Purple Heart recipient who was a helicopter pilot before she was severely injured, losing both of her legs. She was also the first Asian-American woman elected to congress.

Manchin is perhaps best known to voters as the father of Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, according to The Washington Post. Bresch was the subject of headlines and negative media attention for several months after she hiked the price of life-saving EpiPen injectors to more than $600 per pack, among other price-gouging moves.

Manchin tried to distance himself from his daughter's company, but has been the recipient of campaign donations from Mylan and was key to helping his daughter lobby the government so her company could sell EpiPens to American schools and obtain millions in Medicaid reimbursements. Additionally, the senator's wife, Gayle Manchin, headed the National Association of State Boards of Education, which was instrumental in boosting Mylan profits by pushing schools to stock the epinephrine auto-injectors and sign exclusivity agreements to purchase them only from Mylan.

Sources: Politico, The Hill, The Washington Post / Photo credit: NASA HQ/Flickr

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