- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, announced yesterday that he has secured enough votes to become the Senate minority whip, the No. 2 spot in Democratic leadership in the upper chamber, giving his party a more liberal balance to the expected minority leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.

“As of this morning I had 30 commitments for my candidacy for whip, out of 45 whom I believe will vote,” Mr. Durbin told reporters yesterday.

Securing that support heads off a bid for the post by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota.

The minority whip oversees party vote counts and floor procedures.

Current Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, was defeated in his Senate re-election bid Tuesday, setting off a scramble for the leadership posts. Senate Democrats sustained a net loss of four seats to Republicans on Election Day, giving Republicans 55 seats and Democrats 44, and leaving one independent who caucuses with Democrats.

Mr. Durbin, who will succeed Mr. Reid as whip, said Democrats will have a more difficult job pursuing their agenda in the face their Senate losses and President Bush’s win, which he said constitutes a small mandate.

“His margin of victory was certainly one that’s unusual — to win a majority of the vote, and majority of the electoral vote. It hasn’t happened in quite a few years. So the president’s in a position to lead,” Mr. Durbin said.

“His mandate is a 51 percent to 49 percent mandate. It was not a landslide. America is still closely divided on the important issues, and I think the debate in the Senate and the House will reflect that.”

Democrats, he said, will “have to pick our battles, and we have to look for common ground with the Bush administration when we can find it.”

Some Democrats said their party was simply trumped Tuesday by a bad election map and Republicans clouding the issues, but Mr. Durbin said a deeper re-examination is necessary.

“I’m not going to diminish the fact that we have to step back and look at what we have to say and how we say it. The president won, he deserves his victory,” Mr. Durbin said. “We Democrats can’t take this sitting down. We have to stand up, look at our own agenda, our own language, and figure out how we build this back into a majority party,” he said.

Mr. Dorgan said he would remain chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee.

“Our Democratic caucus needs to be united and aggressive in working on the issues that we know will strengthen this country,” he said. “I look forward to working with Senator Reid and others in our caucus to achieve these goals.”

Democratic aides said the decision to support Mr. Durbin was obvious.

“Do you really think we needed someone else from the Dakotas?” said one senior aide, who also said many of his colleagues are still miffed at Mr. Dorgan for voting with most Republicans on a procedural motion that allowed the Medicaid prescription drug bill to pass last year.

Mr. Durbin is viewed as a balance to Mr. Reid’s pro-life, pro-gun stances, and brings polished public persona for the party.

Mr. Reid said Mr. Durbin would be a good partner.

“We represent different regions of the country and different constituencies, and will complement each other remarkably well,” Mr. Reid said.

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