Schumer lifts Democrats with a majority stunner

By MARY CLARE JALONICK and LISA MASCARO, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was eating Peking duck at a Chinese restaurant with family and friends on the west side of Manhattan Saturday night when an aide called with urgent news: The Democrats would win the Nevada Senate seat and retain their majority.

The restaurant burst into joy when the news was beamed onto a TV screen and a group celebrating a birthday sent them a piece of cake.

But Schumer didn’t stay to celebrate. He soon rushed across town for an impromptu, late-night press conference in the lobby of a building near his office.

“I will be Majority Leader again,” he told the cameras, almost dazed.

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The 2022 election was “a victory and a vindication for Democrats,” he said.

It was vindication for the often underrated Schumer, in particular, who won a string of unexpected legislative victories this year as he navigated the slim 50-50 majority of Democrats. But the midterm elections held the biggest surprise of all, as his party managed to defend its seats despite historic trends and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings. The result: two more years of tight Senate control.

Even a narrow majority has huge implications for Biden and his party as the Senate confirms nominees and executive justices, including for the Supreme Court if there are vacancies over the next two years. Democrats will be able to decide which bills to bring to the Senate as Republicans — who may control the House — politically defeat the president ahead of the 2024 election.

“Look, I was on top of every single one of these campaigns,” Schumer said in an interview in his Capitol office Monday, a fire roaring behind him and his joy still evident. He said he thinks the Democrats won because they had better candidates and because of their legislative achievements – allowing the government to negotiate some prescription drug costs, investments to fight climate change and a bipartisan effort to tighten who can own guns, among other measures that have been overtaken. Summer.

“That was always my plan,” Schumer said. “Get things done, focus on those things, and don’t get distracted.”

Finally, he said, voters rejected anti-democratic efforts by Republicans who supported former President Donald Trump’s efforts to void the last election.

“We were about to see autocracy eat away at our democracy,” said Schumer, who noted that the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol uprising had called attention to the attack over the summer, with multiple hearings and footage of Trump supporters beating up police getting plenty of airtime. “American voters said, I don’t like it. I will reject it. And the American people saved us.

In his own election autopsy on Monday, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell saw things differently, describing the Democrats’ narrow victory in the Senate and yet-to-be-named control of the House as confirmation of a “tightly divided nation.” Presenting the case directly to Georgia voters, who will decide a runoff in December between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican nominee Herschel Walker, McConnell claimed that Democratic policy failures have led to high inflation.

If Warnock wins, the Democrats will have a 51-49 majority. And Schumer will have protected every one of his incumbents in the election – a staggering feat.

First elected to the House in 1980 and then to the Senate in 1998, Schumer has long been known for his political acumen — he was in charge of winning Democratic efforts in the Senate in 2006 and 2008 — and as a master of the communication. But for his colleagues, the results of the midterm elections also confirm his skills as a legislative leader. Although it has been criticized by Republicans and some progressive groups for dropping items from the Democrats’ wish list, the party had achievements to highlight in the election, and lawmakers say it gave them a boost. during the summer.

“This is the year of Chuck Schumer,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who led bipartisan negotiations on gun legislation. The election wins were “set up by a bunch of wins that ended up motivating both swing and grassroots voters,” Murphy said, particularly the sweeping health, climate and economic package Democrats passed after that Schumer negotiated one-on-one with moderate Democrat Joe. Manchi n of West Virginia, which single-handedly killed an earlier version of the legislation.

Murphy said Schumer’s style is “totally unique, and he’s very well suited to a 50-50 Senate,” in that he knows when to micromanage and when to cool down. Murphy said he spoke to Schumer several times a day as he negotiated the gun bill, but always let Murphy take the lead.

Schumer brags about his communication skills, noting that he has all the Democratic senators on speed dial on his famous flip phone. And he knows a lot of their numbers by heart, he said.

“Every member calls me,” he said. “They don’t go through the staff. They can talk to me directly, no email.

Brian Fallon, a former Schumer aide who is now the executive director of Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group that supports the court’s expansion, said Schumer “has become his own over the past two years” in terms of legislative maneuvers. At no time was that more evident than this summer, Fallon said, when Schumer unexpectedly announced the deal with Manchin on the broad package of bills and caught angry Republicans by surprise.

“He’s had his own kind of Harry Reid moment the last few months,” Fallon said, referring to the late Nevada senator and majority leader who was known as one of the Senate’s toughest negotiators before passing the torch to Schumer. Reid died last year.

The next two years won’t be easy, even if Warnock wins and gives Democrats a crucial extra seat. Several Democratic incumbents are up for re-election in 2024, and Republicans still have a good chance of winning a majority in the House, making negotiations more difficult for Schumer.

“So where do we go from here?” asked Schumer. The Democratic leader said he intended to sit down with McConnell and try to find places to get along, even though the two men have traditionally had a frosty relationship.

“I’m going to make a real effort to do everything we can,” Schumer said, echoing what he’s said since taking over as chief two years ago. “We have to focus on getting things done. This means that we are going to have to make compromises.

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