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 4:39 PM
Updated: Jan 20, 2018 4:39 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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 34830

Reported Deaths: 2143
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9900581
Lake3639190
Allen166269
Cass15877
Elkhart132228
St. Joseph128634
Hendricks117171
Hamilton116293
Johnson1115109
Madison59359
Porter54328
Bartholomew51535
Clark50541
LaPorte43824
Howard41528
Tippecanoe4143
Jackson3921
Delaware38539
Shelby37322
Hancock34027
Floyd31839
Boone31535
Vanderburgh2822
Morgan28024
Montgomery24517
Noble23721
White2378
Clinton2331
Decatur22431
Grant21323
Dubois1993
Harrison19422
Henry18411
Greene16925
Vigo1698
Dearborn16821
Warrick16628
Monroe16612
Lawrence16524
Kosciusko1501
Miami1401
Putnam1377
Jennings1304
Orange13022
Scott1203
Marshall1112
Franklin1108
Ripley1096
Carroll932
Daviess9216
Wayne855
LaGrange842
Steuben842
Wabash792
Fayette787
Newton7810
Jasper681
Jay530
Washington521
Clay511
Fulton491
Randolph483
Rush472
Pulaski460
Jefferson451
Whitley433
Starke393
DeKalb371
Sullivan361
Owen351
Perry330
Brown331
Wells320
Benton310
Huntington282
Knox280
Blackford262
Tipton251
Crawford240
Fountain212
Switzerland200
Spencer201
Parke180
Gibson172
Adams171
Posey160
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin110
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0167

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 121234

Reported Deaths: 5412
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook784953658
Lake8408292
DuPage7765374
Kane6404178
Will5613277
Winnebago229055
McHenry158572
St. Clair115282
Kankakee91548
Kendall80419
Rock Island66124
Champaign6457
Madison59460
Boone46317
DeKalb4184
Sangamon35029
Jackson28910
Randolph2694
Peoria2389
McLean22013
Ogle2113
Stephenson2092
Macon19419
Clinton18617
Union15511
LaSalle15313
Whiteside14213
Iroquois1324
Coles12715
Out of IL1181
Warren1170
Jefferson10116
Knox1010
Grundy992
Monroe9612
Unassigned930
McDonough8911
Lee811
Cass730
Tazewell735
Henry690
Williamson672
Pulaski560
Marion500
Jasper457
Macoupin452
Adams441
Perry410
Vermilion401
Montgomery391
Morgan361
Christian354
Livingston342
Jo Daviess320
Douglas280
Jersey241
Fayette213
Woodford212
Ford201
Menard200
Mason180
Washington180
Hancock170
Mercer170
Shelby161
Bureau151
Carroll152
Schuyler130
Bond121
Franklin120
Clark110
Crawford110
Fulton110
Logan110
Moultrie110
Piatt110
Brown100
Cumberland100
Johnson90
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Effingham71
Massac70
Saline70
Greene50
Marshall50
Wabash50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
White20
Calhoun10
Edgar10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Terre Haute
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 75°
Robinson
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 79°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 74°
Rockville
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 75°
Casey
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 76°
Brazil
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 75°
Marshall
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 75°
Sunny and Hot!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events