"I think you've earned this," Durbin recalled telling Schumer, in an interview with The Washington Post the next morning.
The two spoke privately off of the Senate floor without any witnesses, a detail that would become immensely important to the relationship between the soon-to-be top two Democrats in the days to follow.
According to Durbin's office, at the same time that he offered his support to Schumer, the New York Democrat offered Durbin his support to stay on as whip. He'd be Schumer's top deputy.
"Senators Durbin and Schumer spoke off the Senate floor," Durbin spokesman Ben Marter said Tuesday. "The two leaders had an agreement to support one another: Schumer for leader and Durbin for whip. Then they shook hands. That's what a deal is."
But Schumer's team is now accusing them of lying. "That didn't happen," a source close to Schumer said. "And they know it."
The public dispute represents the widening of a rift that, as of Friday morning, had appeared to be healed. The Post reported that Schumer "grew emotional" at Durbin's offer to avoid a public fight for Reid's job that, Democratic sources say, has been all but over for years. The two former roommates, who went their separate ways when Rep. George Miller retired and sold the home the three lawmakers had lived in for more than two decades, have long been friends. But their sometimes conflicting personalities and leadership styles, not to mention the constant media interest in who would succeed Reid once he retired, had created a rift between the two.
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Reid's growing closeness with Schumer, whom he often says he speaks to multiple times per day, did not help things. Though Reid told Schumer of his pending retirement announcement on Thursday evening around 8 p.m., he didn't connect with Durbin until about 11 a.m. Friday morning, long after Schumer and the No. 4 Democrat, Murray, had released public statements commending Reid for his nearly three decades serving in Congress.
The disagreement between Durbin and Schumer over what exactly happened early Friday morning was first aired in Politico on Monday in a piece speculating that Murray may challenge Durbin for the whip job. The story cited "several Democratic sources" encouraging her to move up in leadership and quoted Murray at an event with reporters in Seattle, on Monday "side-stepping" a question about whether she would run for another leadership job in 2016.
"Let me just say this: What everybody needs to understand is, this vote, this election, won't take place for a year and a half," Murray said. "Right now, we need to get a budget written and passed. We have a lot of work that we are focused on."
But the question asked of Murray was whether she would be "necessarily opposed" to running for another open leadership position. Schumer's job as the head of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee will, after all, be vacant come 2016 (though Stabenow, the current vice chair, may be interested in that position as well).