Schumer pledges ‘bold and dramatic change’ if Democrats win back Senate
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday night teased what the top priorities will be for Democrats if they win back the Senate majority in November.
Schumer, speaking to a national audience as part of the virtual Democratic National Convention, pledged that if Democrats take the chamber, they will be “united,” despite a spectrum of views within the caucus.
“If we’re going to win this battle for the soul of our nation, Joe [Biden] can’t do it alone. Democrats must take back the Senate. We will stay united … and with our unity, we will bring bold and dramatic change to our country,” Schumer said.
Schumer offered a laundry list of areas Democrats would act on, including health care, climate change, fighting systemic racism and “restoring” the Supreme Court.
“With President Biden, Vice President [Kamala] Harris and a Democratic Senate majority, we will make health care affordable for all; we’ll undo the vicious inequality of income and wealth that has plagued America for far too long; and we’ll take strong, decisive action to combat climate change and save the planet,” he said.
Schumer also tipped his hand to the ongoing global health pandemic, pledging that Democrats would “defeat” the coronavirus, which has killed more than 171,000 people in the U.S., according to The New York Times. And he said they would “save the post office,” which has faced growing concerns sparked by mail delays that it is not prepared to handle a potential influx of mail-in ballots in November.
“And, beckoned by the lady behind us, we will reform our immigration system so that immigrants yearning to breathe free will at last become American citizens,” Schumer said, referring to the Statue of Liberty in the background.
Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, but political handicappers believe Democrats have growing momentum to regain control of the chamber for the first time since 2014.
Democrats need a net pickup of three seats and the White House to capture the Senate, which would allow the vice president to break 50-50 ties. They need a net gain of four seats to have an outright majority.
Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who won in a special election in 2017, is widely viewed as vulnerable, complicating their path back to the majority. But Republicans are playing defense in a growing number of states, including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Montana and North Carolina, where GOP senators are on the ballot.
Schumer, during his convention speech, cast the fight for control of both the Senate and the White House as a “battle for the soul of our nation” and argued that Trump had “demeaned” what the country represents.
“He hid in a bunker as Americans were tear-gassed and beaten; Millions are jobless. One hundred and seventy thousand Americans have died from COVID. And Donald Trump says, ‘It is what it is.’ … America, Donald Trump has quit on you,” Schumer said.
A Democratic Senate agenda does face one potential roadblock: the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
Progressives have clamored for years for Democrats to nix the higher threshold if they win back the majority, and the idea has caught on recently with a larger swath of the caucus.
Democrats would need a majority to invoke the “nuclear option” and lower the filibuster for legislation to a simple majority — similar to what Democrats did for most nominations in 2013 and what Republicans did for Supreme Court picks in 2017.
It’s unclear if Democrats would have the votes to nix the legislative filibuster, though they would face tremendous outside pressure to do so. Both Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats, have said they could not support getting rid of it.
Schumer, during a press conference this year, didn’t rule out getting rid of the 60-vote filibuster but said the party’s first priority was to win back the majority.
“Job number one is for us to get the majority. We don’t take anything for granted, but it’s looking better and better,” he told reporters. “Once we get the majority, we’ll discuss it in our caucus. Nothing’s off the table.”