What Would a Senate Led by Chuck Schumer Look Like?

WASHINGTON – With polls leaning toward a Democratic takeover of the Senate, Sen. Chuck Schumer suddenly faces the possibly of morphing into the upper chamber’s most powerful figure, charged with trying to place what many voters disparage as a derailed train back on line.

Schumer, Brooklyn born and raised, isn’t as well-known as some of his Empire State colleagues, folks like the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the woman he may wind up working with if she succeeds in her own campaign for president, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But members of the Democratic caucus profess confidence in his abilities.

“I call him the Jewish LBJ,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told the Washington Post.

The renowned Lyndon Baines Johnson, Senate Democratic leader in the late 1950s before becoming vice president and, eventually, president is generally upheld as the archetypical Senate majority leader, spirited, tough and relentless.

And while Schumer shares some of those qualities, LBJ had something the lawmaker headed for his fourth six-year term won’t – a strong Democratic majority. Navigating a route through ever-rebellious Republicans with major issues pending would stretch anyone’s skills.

Should Democrats gain control of the upper chamber, Republicans will find themselves dealing with a devilishly smart lawmaker – Schumer graduated first in his class from James Madison High School in Brooklyn before earning undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University. He is also a calculating political operative, more strategically inclined than his predecessor, the retiring Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The man is not shy. It’s often been said the most dangerous spot in Washington, D.C., is between Chuck Schumer and a television camera. Yet he obviously carries the confidence of the Senate Democratic Caucus, outmaneuvering potential rivals, particularly Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.), his former D.C. roommate who is technically first in line behind Reid, having served as Democratic whip for 12 years.

But Schumer quickly wrapped up the succession question and is already laying the groundwork in case Democrats capture the majority. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, the numbers analyst supreme, currently gives the party a 71 percent chance of reaching that goal on Nov. 8. Schumer already is looking ahead, telling John Harwood of CNBC that it is “more likely than not” that he will assume the powerful position of majority leader.

Schumer is on record saying that his priority for the 115th Congress, other than the budget and other necessary matters, is immigration reform. A bill he sponsored with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2013, which provided unauthorized aliens a path toward legal status, passed the Senate in a bipartisan manner, 68-32, before bogging down in the House.