Testing Schumer

Word is Chuck Schumer is a lead-pipe cinch to succeed Harry Reid as Leader of Senate Democrats. Not that anyone in the Senate is likely to ask for my opinion, but I’m not the biggest fan of Schumer, who has long admitted he thinks of Wall Street as a local New York constituency group rather than the people who own the U.S. economy, and who offered some notably bad retroactive advice to Democrats after the 2014 midterms.

None of that, however, seems to be what’s upsetting Democrats about Schumer right now: instead, it’s his rather questionable role in the debate over the pending Iran nuke deal. Politico‘s Burgess Everett put it this way:

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, one of Capitol Hill’s most influential voices in the Iran nuclear debate, is strongly endorsing passage of a law opposed by President Barack Obama that would give Congress an avenue to reject the White House-brokered framework unveiled last week.

If you read the whole piece, you discover there’s a lot of uncertainty about the motives of Schumer and other Senate Democrats cosponsoring a bill from Bob Corker guaranteeing Congress a vote on the relaxation of congressionally imposed Iran sanctions. They may be selling out the administration, or at least buying into the dubious idea that congressional obstruction of a deal strengthens the administration’s hand in negotiations; or they may be jollying Republicans along fully intending to block any approval of the bill before negotiations have been completed.

I don’t want to pre-judge what’s ultimately going to happen. But I don’t mind saying that Democrats ought to view this year and next as a testing period for Schumer’s suitability as leader.

One of the arguments in favor of Schumer you hear is that unlike Reid, he won’t be unduly influenced by re-election concerns given New York’s deep blue partisan shading (at least in statewide elections). But if Schumer thinks representing New York means viewing Wall Street and Bibi Netanyahu as needy constituents, who cares if he’s feeling no electoral pressure?

So let’s see how Schumer handles this year and next and then decide whether it’s worth the trouble to stage noisy protests over this man’s supposedly inevitable ascension to the leadership.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.