Harry Reid Appoints Elizabeth Warren to Reach Out to Liberals

After losses, the Massachusetts senator will rally the Democratic base from a new Senate leadership perch.

Elizabeth Warren will step into a newly created Senate leadership post Thursday, which will place her smack-dab in the middle of key policy discussions and help Democrats keep in touch with their base.

Warren, a first-term senator, is expected to use her star power with the Democratic base to rally progressive groups as the party recovers from midterm losses and sets its sights on the White House in 2016. Her official title will be Senior Policy Advisor to the Democratic Policy and Communications Center.

In an press conference after a lengthy caucus meeting Thursday morning, Sen. Harry Reid addressed what he expects of Warren in her new role. "I expect her to be Elizabeth Warren," he said.

"I believe in what the Democrats are fighting for," Warren said at the conference. "We have to make ths government work for the American people, and that is what we're here to fight for."

Sen. Claire McCaskill, who earlier Thursday said she would not vote for Harry Reid as leader, praised the Warren appointment. "I think it is terrific," she said. "One thing that led us to the majority in the first place is our party has always been tolerant of different views on a lot of different subjects and Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders. They all have important voices in our caucus. So do Mark Warner, Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp."

Warren's appointment and the influence she will have over setting the Democratic agenda in 2015 could be a clear sign that Reid is not willing to abandon progressive policies such as expanding the minimum wage and prioritizing equal pay for women heading into the next session of Congress. Republicans will take control in January, and they have already signaled they are ready to reignite debate over the Affordable Care Act, the president's signature law.

In a candid Washington Post op-ed last week, Warren warned that Democrats had to find a way to preserve their priorities even with a Republican-controlled Congress.

"The solution to this isn't a basket of quickly passed laws designed to prove Congress can do something—anything," she wrote. "The solution isn't for the president to cut deals—any deals—just to show he can do business."

Since coming to Washington in 2012, Warren has built her reputation as an advocate for college affordability. She has also positioned herself as a ready attack dog against Wall Street.

"She brings a fresh new outlook," outgoing Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin said Thursday. "I am happy to see that she has that position. She is obviously well admired and she speaks with authority especially on consumer issues. I think that is good for our party."

During the midterm campaigns, Warren stumped for candidates from every wing of the Democratic Party, from progressives such as Jeff Merkley to more moderate contenders such as Alison Lundergan Grimes. Warren also attracted big Democratic donors at several fundraisers.