Schumer 2.0: How a surprise same-sex marriage decision explains the Senate leader

Sep 22, 22
Schumer 2.0: How a surprise same-sex marriage decision explains the Senate leader

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Republicans were surprised the majority leader would delay a vote that could hurt them in November. The New Yorker said he only brings the partisan pain when he has no other options.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y.,has his eyes fixed by the camera at a Capitol news conference.

That explains another side of a less bellicose incarnation of Schumer: He always consults the senators closest to an issue to inform his strategy, whether that’s infrastructure or guns or marriage. After all, this is the guy who was in the immigration Gang of Eight — he knows how bipartisan groups work from experience.

Baldwin and Sinema, along with Republican partners like Collins, told him in no uncertain terms that they are confident they can break a filibuster on same-sex marriage after the election, but possibly not before then.

“He was really letting us do the work, in the same way that we had to do with the community [gun] safety bill,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who worked on both same-sex marriage legislation and the firearms bill. “In spite of all the narrative that was buzzing around in the bubble, it never occurred to us that it was going to be a jam.”

On the Democratic side, however, there wasn’t a consensus at the beginning. Some progressives thought Democrats should force the vote before the election, viewing it as a policy win if it advanced and a political win if it failed. After all, there’s no guarantee that the measure will pass after the midterms, even though Baldwin says she believes it will.

“We debated it back and forth,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Both Collins and Sinema said the issue transcended politics for Schumer as well. As Sinema put it: “This issue is personal for Senator Schumer. We all have friends and family who are worried their loving marriages could be in jeopardy.”

Longtime Schumer watchers have noticed a broader shift in attitude, which bypasses any one issue, that allows him to be more focused on a longer game. Though he still pays close attention to the Senate races, it’s become less front-of-mind while he steers the 50-50 chamber and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) runs the caucus’ campaign arm.

Schumer the political animal, in other words, sharpens his teeth a little bit less these days.

“One of Chuck’s biggest problems, and hopefully we’ve alleviated some of that is … he was always a player within the DSCC. And really it doesn’t help with policy, when you’re on the political side,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the DSCC chair in 2016. “He’s given Peters far more space than he ever gave me, let’s put it that way.”

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