Jun 3, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Next generation of Senate Dems eye 2025 leadership shuffle

Illustration of a black and white hand in a suit passing a marble column like a baton to a hand in color

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Younger Senate Democrats are eyeing Sen. Debbie Stabenow's (D-Mich.) retirement next year as a rare opportunity to inject fresh talent into a leadership team that's enjoyed a decades-long grip on power.

Why it matters: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have been in leadership since before the chamber's youngest Democrat — 37-year-old Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) — was eligible to vote.

  • Whoever snags Stabenow's No. 3 spot would have an edge in future battles to move up the chain of command.

By the numbers: At 73, Schumer is the youngest of the Senate's top three Democrats. Durbin is 79; Stabenow 74.

  • All are significantly older than the two Democratic senators viewed as most likely to replace Stabenow: Cory Booker (New Jersey), 55, and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), 64.

What we're hearing: Younger Senate Democrats told Axios they look forward to 2025 opening new opportunities to lead committees and the caucus.

  • Booker, vice chair of the policy and communications committee, said he "would hope" there will be space for new faces to join the upper echelons of Senate Democratic leadership.
  • "It's nice to be here long enough to finally start seeing not just Gen X, but millennials coming into the United States Senate," added Booker, a former Newark mayor who's been in the Senate since 2013.
  • "Younger voices are generally helpful in a body like the U.S. Senate," said Ossoff, who's in his first term.

The big picture: "Young" is a relative concept in the Senate, where the median age is about 65. Overall, the Senate has gotten older in recent years, while the House (median age about 58) has gotten younger.

  • There are five senators in their 80s; the oldest member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is 90.

Zoom in: Schumer and Durbin, who declined to comment, show no signs of abandoning their leadership posts anytime soon.

  • But retirements will free up the top Democratic spots on the Agriculture, Environment and Public Works and Foreign Relations committees.
  • Incumbents also could lose in the November elections, giving younger members a boost.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, vice chair of the Democrats' policy and communications committee and head of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has said he's not running for re-election, potentially opening up those two positions.

What they're saying: Senators in their first or second term who may be years away from being seriously considered for leadership posts, told Axios it's important for party members to promote younger voices.

  • Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) said Democrats should be "intentional about having a pipeline on leadership." Warnock, 54, joked it was "very kind" to consider him "young" in the Senate.
  • "It's important to have younger members in positions of leadership," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), 50, said, but he added that a leadership post was less essential to raising a politician's profile than it used to be.
  • "You can make a name for yourself whether or not you're in leadership or you're chairman of a committee."

The other side: The early jockeying over Senate Democratic leadership is nowhere near as fractured or bitter as it is on the Republican side, where a battle over replacing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is well underway.

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