Chuck Schumer's big moment

The high-stakes standoff over government funding has thrust Chuck Schumer into the brightest spotlight of his young t...

Posted: Jan 20, 2018 3:39 PM
Updated: Jan 20, 2018 3:39 PM

The high-stakes standoff over government funding has thrust Chuck Schumer into the brightest spotlight of his young tenure leading Senate Democrats. He faces intense pressure to resolve a thicket of policy issues while defending his party against potential blame if the government shutters.

The political fallout from a shutdown is uncertain. But Democrats -- who are anxious to make a stand on immigration and other long-simmering issues -- recognize if they mishandle the stalemate they could set back their efforts to retake control of Congress in November's midterm elections.

The focus on Schumer as perhaps the most powerful Democrat in Washington became clear Friday when he was the only lawmaker who sat down with President Donald Trump at the White House to try to broker a last-minute deal and avoid a costly shutdown.

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, stayed back at the Capitol so the President could negotiate with Schumer.

He leads the 49 senators who caucus with Democrats, about a dozen of whom would be needed by Republicans to get the 60 votes to pass the spending bill. That's powerful leverage.

But Schumer must guard and balance the wildly different political needs within his caucus. Most immediately, the 10 Democrats up for re-election this fall in states Trump won in 2016. Many of those senators are wary of contributing to a shutdown and think they would pay a price with voters. Schumer is close to that group and protective of them because he led the Democrats' campaign arm when many of them were elected. He knows if he is going to be majority leader in the next Congress, all of them must win.

"This is clearly a case where if the government gets shut down, the Democrats are going to be blamed for it," said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, who said Schumer's handling of the spending crisis may hurt is 2018 candidates. "Going to the brink of a shutdown is exactly the opposite of what you would do for someone in one of the 2018 states."

But Schumer also has a handful of Democrats on the left flank who are angling to challenge Trump for the White House in 2020. Cheered on by grassroots progressives, they are agitating to aggressively take on Trump at every turn and don't want Schumer to cave to Trump or be too cautious as it relates to senators running for re-election this year.

'It's in the hands of the leader'

Schumer must also consider that Trump is unpopular already and if Democrats end of getting blamed by the public for a shutdown it could boost the President and hurt their chances in November.

"I am so glad Chuck Schumer is over there," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, Schumer's House counterpart, when the meeting was underway.

In a statement after the meeting Schumer said progress was made but there were still issues to resolve.

"It's in the hands of the leader," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the number two Democrat and lead negotiator on immigration, putting his faith in Schumer. "I don't know if there will be an agreement, but Leader Schumer is working on it."

Biggest test

Schumer, a fourth-term New Yorker with a proud Brooklyn accent, became the Senate Democratic leader a year ago, taking over the top spot when Nevada Sen. Harry Reid retired. As leader, he is the top policymaker, top strategist and top salesman.

"The only thing standing in our way is the unrelenting flow of chaos from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue," Schumer said in a colorful floor speech this week. "The President is like Abbott; Leader McConnell is like Costello."

He's learning each role as he goes and being challenged by the spending stalemate like no other issue before. Even the high-profile Republican effort last year to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which ultimately failed, was more about internal GOP divides than traditional Democrats versus Republicans politics.

At this stage, Schumer appears to have the trust of most of his caucus. When he raced to the White House Friday, most of his members didn't even know he was going or what he would negotiate. But they said they were OK with that.

"I have extensive, complete confidence that Chuck Schumer is the right person to carry the thoughts and ponderings of our caucus in our fight for jobs, education, health, and a healthy planet," Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, told CNN. "This is a very important negotiation and he's the right man for the job."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35419

Reported Deaths: 1230
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds290851
DeSoto190019
Madison144638
Jones120349
Harrison113616
Rankin108715
Neshoba104577
Forrest99343
Lauderdale96381
Scott81915
Jackson77519
Washington72213
Copiah65315
Leake63520
Lee61222
Oktibbeha61128
Grenada5949
Warren59421
Holmes58641
Wayne56218
Yazoo5536
Lowndes54813
Lamar5347
Leflore53156
Lincoln52935
Pike49920
Lafayette4974
Sunflower4778
Monroe45635
Panola4486
Covington4355
Bolivar40518
Simpson3933
Attala38424
Newton37510
Tate35213
Adams35120
Pontotoc3466
Marion32712
Claiborne30111
Chickasaw29719
Winston29511
Pearl River28832
Noxubee2788
Jasper2776
Marshall2773
Walthall2627
Clay25811
Union25211
Smith24612
Clarke22325
Coahoma2226
Lawrence2092
Yalobusha2079
Tallahatchie1954
Kemper18414
Carroll18111
Montgomery1713
Calhoun1645
Humphreys16310
Itawamba1468
Tippah14511
Hancock14413
Webster13411
Jefferson1263
Tunica1233
Jefferson Davis1204
Prentiss1204
George1163
Greene11310
Amite1103
Alcorn1002
Quitman991
Wilkinson989
Tishomingo971
Perry874
Choctaw754
Stone742
Franklin542
Sharkey480
Benton460
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6433170
Mobile4753139
Montgomery4430112
Tuscaloosa263253
Madison21199
Marshall192611
Shelby164225
Lee157237
Morgan12695
Baldwin120711
Walker106131
Elmore102920
Dallas9969
Etowah95114
DeKalb9417
Franklin93216
Autauga67614
Russell6750
Chambers67427
Unassigned65328
Butler65129
Tallapoosa62869
Limestone6223
Houston5857
Cullman5716
Lauderdale5686
St. Clair5133
Colbert4956
Calhoun4905
Lowndes48122
Escambia4808
Pike4725
Coffee4244
Jackson4182
Covington41412
Barbour3942
Dale3911
Talladega3897
Bullock37710
Marengo35211
Hale34823
Chilton3232
Clarke3126
Wilcox3038
Blount2961
Winston2965
Sumter29113
Marion27514
Pickens2696
Randolph2589
Monroe2553
Perry2362
Conecuh2308
Bibb2211
Macon2159
Choctaw21212
Greene1959
Henry1533
Washington1418
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