“You’re gonna do great. Everyone likes you.”

Brisport’s swearing-in was the capper on one more coup for New York’s rising progressives and Schumer, the institution man, was there to cheer them on. He is bear-hugging the left nowadays, as chatter swirls of a possible main problem subsequent yr.

But Schumer’s embrace can be wider, extra consuming. He is his personal tent in New York and everybody and their mates are invited in. Can’t make it? He’ll come to yours. He is aware of the city and the city — each city in each county throughout the state — is aware of him.

At the rostrum, Schumer, face-to-livestreaming-camera, paid homage — to the neighborhood, to the organizers, and to “my colleague in the Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez!” This was a “great day,” Schumer mentioned, “democracy in action.” His personal ascent got here to thoughts — the “awesome” really feel of it. “Awe in the biblical sense. When the angels saw the face of God and trembled. Such a huge responsibility.”

Schumer elbow-bumped Brisport as he completed and walked again out of the body. His well-known flip telephone was, for a couple of minutes, silent. Ocasio-Cortez ultimately rose to talk after which, beaming, she administered the oath.

He’d be again in Washington quickly, doing the job so lots of his mates, allies and colleagues say he was born to do: Pushing the President’s “American Rescue Plan,” hashing out a power-sharing deal with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, shepherding Biden’s Cabinet appointees, making ready for former President Donald Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial — and doing all of it with no margin for error in a divided chamber.

In the background, creeping nearer, is his personal political future. Schumer is up for reelection subsequent yr. New York has develop into a launching pad for the rebel left. Totems of the state Democratic institution have been toppled in two consecutive cycles. Rumors {that a} younger progressive would possibly take a run at Schumer in 2022 ping-pong round lefty and media circles. Some individuals acquainted with Ocasio-Cortez’s considering say she’s contemplating it, that she hasn’t dominated it out.

But she and her group are being coy. No denials, no hints. Perhaps extra notably, no strikes — to this point — to set the groundwork for a problem.

The subsequent few months may decide how actual a risk — if any — Schumer faces from the progressive left subsequent yr, as he’s charged with bringing house the votes to ship on a few of Biden’s most formidable agenda objects. First, the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 aid and stimulus bundle. Then one other, bigger invoice targeted on infrastructure. Democracy reform, a fair stickier legislative wicket, may observe that — and the specter of a brewing intra-party conflict over the destiny of the filibuster hangs over all of it.

The majority chief meets his second

For now, although, the pursuits and ambitions of Schumer and his would-be Democratic rivals are in near-perfect alignment.

“We discussed many of the details of the bill that we have to put together over the next few weeks,” Schumer mentioned after a Wednesday assembly with Biden and main Senate Democrats on the White House. There was “universal agreement,” he added, “we must go big and bold.”

The message has been the identical, aides to Democratic senators informed CNN, on personal calls with his caucus.

They described a brand new majority chief bursting with pleasure, decided to maneuver the method alongside shortly, repeatedly warning skeptics in his ranks of the hazards of doing too little, or ready too lengthy — don’t, he has warned, make “the mistake of 2009,” when the Obama administration and Senate Democrats handed a trimmed-down stimulus invoice in response to the monetary disaster. It stopped the bleeding, sure, however set in movement a desperately sluggish restoration.

An aide to a average Senate Democrat monitoring the negotiations mentioned that Schumer’s urgency over the Covid aid bundle is extra probably motivated by “fear of letting Republicans play Lucy with the football game like they did with Obama” than worries over a main problem.

Making the job much more troublesome: Schumer is working with the narrowest attainable majority. The Senate is break up, 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaker. One holdout and a celebration line vote would fail. Schumer would, inevitably, shoulder the blame.

Schumer arrives for a news conference following the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol January 4, 2018 in Washington, DC.

“He has one of the toughest jobs in Washington right now. He’s the majority leader of a caucus that has zero margin for error. And I don’t mean 1%, I mean zero,” Maine Sen. Angus King, an impartial who caucuses with the Democrats, informed CNN this week. “I think, thus far, he’s handling it well. He’s handling it by persuasion not by coercion. He’s talking to people, listening and trying to accommodate their needs, but it’s a very tough position.”

Another Senate aide, to a progressive Democrat, provided the same description of Schumer’s type: pleasant, verbose, sympathetic, however finally unyielding.

“He’s got a really calming disposition and pretty skilled in terms of moderating a lot of these member calls,” the aide mentioned. “He’s careful to validate concerns, to gently push back, to make personal inquiries into so-and-so member about a particular issue. I think he shows a kind of skill, the hand-holding and the process, and I think he has a pretty good, kind of granular grasp of some of the policy considerations, too.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, put it this fashion: “Chuck’s style is unique. He is frenetically connected to his caucus members.”

“In many ways, Schumer is made for this moment,” Murphy mentioned. “Managing an effective one-seat majority in the Senate is really hard and it requires you to know what every single member of your caucus is thinking on an hour-to-hour basis, because one disgruntled member can potentially upset your agenda.”

Other Senate aides, previous and current, informed CNN they weren’t shocked by Schumer’s tack with the caucus or his willpower to cheer lead and cajole for Biden’s agenda. He is, at 70-years-old, after a mixed 4 many years in the House and Senate, as relentless as ever. This is his dream job, outdated mates and allies mentioned, the work of a lifetime.

“Very hands on, very hands on,” is how Jim Manley, a longtime aide to the final Democratic majority chief, Nevada’s Harry Reid, described Schumer. “That flip phone in his hands can serve as a dangerous weapon … He’s like the Energizer bunny, he just won’t stop.”

Schumer talks on his phone before the Senate impeachment vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 5, 2020.

The telephone comes up quite a bit in conversations about Schumer. It’s his connector of option to an unlimited world of colleagues, liberal political movers, mates, household and donors — and a shorthand for his analog political type. During a video assembly with native information organizations final month, it stored ringing. He ignored it and thanked the newsroom leaders on the decision for his or her work; they thanked him for guiding federal aid cash to the hard-hit business.

“(Nancy) Pelosi has called me and Biden so I won’t be able to be on for too much longer,” he mentioned after some time, in a scene described on Syracuse.com, the net house for the Central New York metropolis’s Post-Standard newspaper. Schumer was a Brooklyn child, he is a Brooklyn resident, however he makes some extent of visiting all the state’s 62 counties yearly.

Daniel Squadron, who started as Schumer’s physique man in the early 2000s and served as a state senator for a lot of the following decade, loved it — largely — from up shut. (Schumer and his spouse, Iris, launched Squadron to his future spouse, not an unusual story in Schumerworld circles.)

Working for Schumer, Squadron mentioned, is “incredibly intense. There’s no better graduate school for how to be a public servant and do politics.”

But it’s Schumer now studying on the job. Squadron mentioned he did not count on it to be a steep curve.

“Whether it’s Hamilton County, New York, or a colleague in the Capitol, he is a hundred percent invested and engaging, listening, convincing, cajoling, supporting — in every one of those interactions,” Squadron mentioned. “I remember him hanging up that flip phone and turning to me in the back seat — he always gets in the front seat — and saying, like, ‘Oh, you know, so-and-so colleague is feeling better.'”

Asked what his outdated boss would make of the state’s rising left-wing vitality and infrastructure, Squadron mentioned the query — one he’d clearly heard earlier than — was all mistaken. It misunderstood Schumer. Worried? No. He loves it.

“Lots of activism and engagement and interest is — that’s Chuck Schumer’s world. The more engaged and active people are the better,” Squadron mentioned. “The Sunday press conference: he’s talked about it sometimes as a way to talk to folks who may not be as focused on the day-to-day of politics.”

Manley, the previous Reid aide, mentioned he informed Schumer to give up the well-known weekly pressers again in 2017, when Schumer took over the Senate Democratic caucus.

“No one is going to ever accuse Sen. Schumer of not paying enough attention to his home state,” Manley mentioned. “For better or for worse. I, for one, wish he’d stopped his Sunday press conferences. In fact, I told him that when he became a minority leader. He’s got too much to do.”

Reading the ‘tea leaves’

That was about 4 years in the past. Hillary Clinton had simply misplaced the presidency to Donald Trump. Schumer took over from Reid, however not below the circumstances he had hoped for, or anticipated. He instantly moved so as to add Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont impartial whose main marketing campaign electrified the Democratic grassroots, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to his management group, which additionally consists of average West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

Schumer additionally introduced that he would assist the bid of then-Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota progressive and Sanders ally, to chair the Democratic National Committee. Ellison finally fell quick, on a second poll, that February at a celebration assembly in Atlanta. Former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez received the job with a lift from the previous President and his allies.

The contest, largely forgotten to historical past and the dizzying information cycles of the Trump period, turned ugly by the tip. On the eve of the vote, the American Jewish Congress despatched out an e mail saying that the DNC, in probably choosing Ellison, risked “threaten(ing) the relationship between America and our ally Israel.” The message adopted a quick however tense marketing campaign opposing Ellison over previous remarks about Israel. The late assault sparked outrage on the left, deepening the divides in an already fractured and shell-shocked Democratic Party.

For some progressives, although, the DNC marketing campaign modified their view of Schumer. He had been criticized on the left for his opposition in 2015 to the Iran Nuclear Deal and for what many nonetheless understand as an unwillingness to press Israel over its therapy of the Palestinians. But at the same time as efforts grew to discredit Ellison grew, Schumer did not reduce bait. And earlier than the DNC vote, he put out a press release re-affirming his assist.

“He stuck with Keith when he didn’t have to. So there’s been a number of overtures (to the left) that have actually taken some political mettle and a little bit of skin in the game that he’s demonstrated from like pretty early on,” a progressive congressional aide mentioned. “It’s not just costless signaling and superficial kind of hand-waving.”

Schumer talks to reporters following the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol January 07, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Nearly two years later, as Ocasio-Cortez ready to enter Congress — after ousting Rep. Joe Crowley, who had been tipped as a possible successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a main — Schumer embraced the leaders of the younger, numerous progressive motion that backstopped Ocasio-Cortez and what can be often known as “the squad.”

Evan Weber, political director of the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led champions of the Green New Deal, recalled an early assembly with Schumer, arrange by the senator’s workplace.

“When we first met with Sen. Schumer, he said, ‘You know, I know you guys have been protesting at my office. That’s fine. Doesn’t really phase me. I was an activist once too.’ So that’s, I guess,” Weber laughed, “his opinion on the matter. All I know is that, whatever we’re doing, he seems to be moving in the right direction” on local weather, inequality and democracy reform points.

Weber, like others interviewed, argued that it was reductive to view Schumer’s embrace of a increasing record progressive targets as cagey sops to the left. There are different incentives at play.

“It includes both him reading the tea leaves about potential threats to his own political career in New York, with its muscular left infrastructure, securing victory after victory,” Weber mentioned. “But I also think that he may be reading the tea leaves for his party more broadly, and knowing that if they can deliver on these things, it both helps Democrats win and keeps him in power as the Senate majority leader.”

Simply put, Democrats throughout the celebration’s ideological spectrum need motion — now. And for now, not less than, there’s normal settlement on scope and path of the agenda spelled out by the Biden administration.

Schumer has solely damaged with Biden on the query of scholar debt aid, a prime progressive precedence. On Thursday, he joined Warren, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams and New York Rep. Mondaire Jones at a information convention to reintroduce a decision calling on the President to make use of his govt authority to cancel $50,000 per lender. Biden has floated a determine round $10,000 and urged he wished Congress to take the lead.

New York, New York… New York!

In New York, Schumer’s standing seems to be as sturdy as ever.

As majority chief, he’s positioned to ship handsomely to his house state and its Covid-racked economic system. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, ripped into Schumer in March of 2020, after the passage of the CARES Act, the primary pandemic aid bundle, saying at a information convention, “It would be nice if he passed a piece of legislation that actually helped the State of New York.”

The tetchiness in Schumer’s relationship with Cuomo, who celebrated Schumer’s ascendance this yr, figuring out all of it however assured federal assist to the state, is one other quiet level in the bulk chief’s favor with New York progressives. In 2020, when the state — with Cuomo’s blessing — upped the requirement for third events to qualify for the poll below its fusion voting system, Schumer was the highest-ranking Democratic officeholder to publicly encourage New Yorkers to vote for Biden the place he appeared on the Working Families Party’s endangered line.

Sochie Nnaemeka, director of the Working Families Party in New York, a longtime progressive rival to the governor, praised Schumer, one of many WFP’s first endorsements again in 1998, for supporting the celebration throughout a time of disaster.

“When powerful Democrats in New York States were dead-set on a weakening the Working Families Party and the progressive movement,” she mentioned, “Sen. Schumer, along with AOC, with (New York City Public Advocate) Jumaane Williams, were Democrats who threw their force behind us and who encouraged New Yorkers to vote on our line.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a press conference about student debt outside the U.S. Capitol on February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC. Also pictured, L-R, Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA).

In the tip, the WFP simply cleared the brand new qualification threshold and can retain its place on the poll, a vital and distinctive device — teams just like the Democratic Socialists of America and Justice Democrats don’t run candidates — in its efforts to drive Democratic politicians left.

But longtime Schumer mates and allies are inclined to downplay these as tactical choices — inside baseball, they are saying, simply watch the man work — when requested about his prospects in 2022. Even most progressives will concede that Democratic incumbents felled over the previous few years by progressive challengers suffered as a lot for ideological causes because the notion — in each the instances of Crowley and former Rep. Eliot Engel, who was defeated in a 2020 main by Rep. Jamaal Bowman — that that they had develop into disconnected from their house districts.

For any potential challenger to Schumer, it could be troublesome to convincingly make the same case.

“There are tons of New Yorkers seeing Chuck Schumer at their high school graduation or college graduation. He is a representative of New Yorkers and New Yorkers get that and appreciate that and appreciate his incredible connection to them,” mentioned Randi Weingarten, the pinnacle of the American Federation of Teachers. “It’s just different. It’s not the same as what had happened (with the other incumbents who lost), it’s just apples to oranges.”

At that, Weingarten, chief of one of many nation’s largest and strongest unions and an only-in-New York political determine to rival Schumer, provided a reminiscence.

“Chuck Schumer was at my wedding, OK. He stayed the whole night! He danced the whole night. He goes to the weddings of all his staff,” she mentioned, then paused, trying to find the final phrase. “It’s just… he’s a mensch.”