Pro-regulation groups hopeful about Schumer

Supporters of stronger public health and safety protections are hoping Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE will be the ally they need to stop Republican attacks against new and former safeguards if he becomes Democratic leader in 2017.  

So far, they say, the New York Democrat has a strong record of advocating for environmental and consumer protections.

“I think he’s shown in the past that he’s willing to get personally engaged when it comes to issues that leave the public vulnerable,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen.

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Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTrump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview Impeachment will reelect Trump MORE (D-Nev.), who announced he would not run for reelection, has endorsed Schumer to replace him as leader, and he appears to have no rivals for the post.

His move up the leadership ladder will be closely followed by advocacy groups, who will be watching to see where he leads the Democrats on a number of issues.

Schumer has taken a strong interest in the work of federal agencies. He has called on the Food and Drug Administration to address unsanitary food warehouse operations, pushed the agency to reverse course on a rule that would have kept cheesemakers from aging cheese on wooden boards, and has expressed concerns about the Department of Agriculture allowing the U.S. to import chicken that’s processed in China.  

Tony Corbo, a senior lobbyist at Food & Water Watch, said he hopes the elevation to a new leadership role will push Schumer to advocate for FDA funding to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act.

“I think that because he has had an interest in food safety, it’s going to elevate the issue to a new level, and we look forward to working with him,” he said.

More recently, Schumer has introduced legislation to make the production, sale and possession of powdered alcohol illegal. He unveiled the bill last month shortly after the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved federal labels for Palcohol, a product made by the company Lipsmark LLC that can be mixed with water and sprinkled onto food.

Because products like Palcohol are easy to conceal and can be snorted, Schumer said they’re dangerous to teenagers.

Schumer's role in regulatory fights will ultimately hinge on whether Democrats regain control of the Senate in 2016, and what the Obama administration is able to accomplish through regulations before the next president takes office.

“We’d love to see Schumer push for those protections that weren’t established,” Narang said.

If Republicans hold the Senate majority in the 2016 election, some health and safety advocates say Schumer will be playing defense.

“Largely he’s going to be responding to Republicans in control and, based on what we’ve seen from Republicans in the Senate on the issue of regulation going forward, is they will either be blocking regulations that are being developed now or getting rid of regulations already on the books,” said James Goodwin, senior policy analyst for the Center for Progressive Reform. “The big question is what, would Sen. Schumer do under those circumstances?”

Though regulatory opponents say they don’t often see eye-to-eye with Schumer, they are trying to remain optimistic about his role with Democrats.

“He’s a different leader, a different person than Reid, and he’s going to want to make his own mark,” said Amanda Austin, vice president of public policy for the National Federation of Independent Business. “I think we have to give someone the benefit of the doubt before we take a position.”