By Drew Carter SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — A New Yorker is set to become perhaps the most powerful Democrat in Washington.
Senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer, born and raised in Brooklyn, cruised to re-election Tuesday night, defeating Republican challenger Wendy Long with 70 percent of the vote. Schumer’s victory grants him a fourth term representing his home state, and now, his role is expanding.
Schumer will take over as the head of the Democratic Party in the Senate, replacing the retiring Harry Reid (NV). Reid took over as leader of the Democratic Senators in 2007, and was the chamber’s Majority Leader until 2015, when Republicans took control. Schumer would have stepped into that role had his party reclaimed a majority in this year’s election cycle, but the GOP maintained its grip on the Senate.
Still, the title Minority Leader makes him immensely influential. The Senate, House of Representatives, and Executive Branch (thanks to President-Elect Donald Trump) will all be Republican-controlled for the near future, making Schumer the biggest obstacle on the GOP’s path toward implementing conservative policies.
Schumer’s most significant tool will be the filibuster (the official term for slowing down legislative votes by speaking on the floor for an extended period of time) — if it still exists during his tenure as Minority Leader. Republicans, led by Scott Walker (WI), have discussed repealing the filibuster to allow for Trump’s policies to pass through Congress, which could neutralize Schumer’s influence.
“It depends upon whether the Republicans decide to nuke the filibuster,” said Chris Faricy, a professor at Syracuse University who specializes in American politics. “If the filibuster stays in place, then he will have some power to stop legislation from moving through.”
Regardless of the filibuster’s future, Schumer is expected to get things done while working with the GOP.
“He’s considered to be more fiscally moderate,” Faricy said. “Someone who has been cutting deals with Republicans in the past.”