Schumer will take over for retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who has served as a tough, strategic and hard-charging minority leader over the last two years and the Democratic majority leader before that.
"I came into this job fully aware of its challenges and what it means to live up to a high standard set by my friend, mentor, just someone—my foxhole buddy, Harry Reid," Schumer said in a press conference following the elections. "Harry Reid's like an older brother to me. His support and counsel are invaluable and I speak for the entire caucus when I say we are grateful for his leadership, his service, his friendship."
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) will remain in the Senate Democrats' No. 2 position of minority whip. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will serve in the No. 3 position as the assistant leader, a newly created slot. Over the last few months, speculation mounted that Murray might challenge Durbin as the minority whip. However, during the election, Murray was instead slotted for the assistant leader position, which added some confusion about whether or not the hierarchy had changed.
After devastating losses in the 2016 election, Schumer also announced a broader Senate leadership team aimed at trying to unite both rust-belt voters who moved to the Republican Party in the last election and the diverse, urban coalition that was built over President Obama's tenure.
"I have decided to expand the team and add three new members who are here today and I'm so proud of each of them. Bernie Sanders, Joe Manchin, Tammy Baldwin. Adding Bernie, Tammy and Joe to our team shows that we can unite the disparate factions of our party and our faction," Schumer said. "Our whole leadership team is emblematic of that. The team is ideologically and geographically diverse. It mixes the wisdom of experience with the vigor of youth—at least in Senate years."
The daunting job of chairing Senate Democrats' campaign arm for the next election cycle remains unfilled. An announcement of who was heading up the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was expected when the other leadership positions were announced. There was no immediate explanation for the delay, but the job is a thankless one heading into 2018, when the Senate map looks bad for Democrats.
As he exited the meeting, Sen.-elect Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) wouldn't say whether he might be interested in the post. While a newcomer, Van Hollen's name has been floated as the freshman senator led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when he was in the House and has extensive fundraising and campaign experience.
Annie Rees contributed to this report.