GOP majority 'overreaching' and vulnerable, Schumer says

Senate Democrats plan to emulate the strategy they used to block Republicans from employing the so-called “nuclear option” on judicial nominations in an effort to enact their own domestic agenda in the coming weeks, a key Democratic senator said yesterday.

Sen. Charles Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), said Democrats will push to bring “meat and potatoes” issues to the floor, including legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs, limit the outsourcing of jobs, raise the minimum wage and cut property taxes.
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DSCC Chairman Sen. Charles Schumer said Democrats need to bring “meat and potatoes” issues to the floor.


“We’re going to try to set some of the agenda by using the rules,” Schumer (N.Y.) told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “We feel this majority is not doing what the people care about.”

Schumer cited private polls that he said show that the favorable ratings of incumbent Republican senators have dropped sharply around the country since January as “people begin to sense that there is a need for some balance in government.”

He added, “The Republican majority is overreaching on issue after issue. They seem to be more focused on ideology and internal machinations than on what people are concerned about.”

Asked what kind of “extraordinary circumstances” would justify opposing any of President Bush’s conservative judicial nominees, Schumer said that “it’s not one issue” that would trigger Democratic opposition.

“It’s hard to define,” he said of the phrase used in the agreement reached Monday night that would preserve the right to filibuster judicial nominees but restrict it to “extraordinary circumstances,” adding, “The test is, will they interpret the law and not make law?”

Referring to Texas Judge Priscilla Owen, he said, “Time and time again, her own colleagues said, ‘You’re reading things into the law.’”

He said he thinks that Owen and two other judges nominated for circuit courts of appeal, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor, “are extraordinary circumstances.”
Schumer also defended former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean from criticism that he’s been too outspoken in his new job as chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

“I’m very high on Howard Dean,” Schumer said. “I didn’t support him when he ran [for president in 2004], but I think he’s done it the right way so far.”

Schumer added, “What I need is to call up the DNC chairman in July 2005, and say, ‘Here are 10 states we are focusing on, and we need you to build up the party organizations so we won’t get killed.”

He said he hopes Democrats will avoid the kind of internecine fights like that in last year’s Florida Senate race, when Rep. Peter Deutsch “spent all his time attacking” former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor and opened the door to Republican Mel Martinez’s win in the general election.

Schumer ticked off a half-dozen GOP incumbents who he said are vulnerable, including Rick Santorum (Pa.), Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), Conrad Burns (Mont.), Mike DeWine (Ohio), Jim Talent (Mo.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.). And, noting that Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.) planned to announce his Senate candidacy yesterday, Schumer predicted he will run a strong race against Majority Leader Bill Frist.

At the same time, Schumer said, Democrats have a good chance of keeping the seats of retiring incumbents in Minnesota and Maryland.

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