Don't Feel Sorry for Chuck Schumer

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Chuck Schumer is dealing with what’s probably the biggest intra-party crack-up of his tenure leading the Senate Democrats yet, a division laid bare over the banking deregulation bill. As Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin told Politico on Wednesday, “It’s a painful and challenging issue for him.”


A week ago, Senator Elizabeth Warren sent out a fundraising email attacking the 16 Democrats who voted to advance the bill to loosen financial regulation of the banks. In response, the site reported Schumer met with Warren, and while he didn’t ask her to stop her attacking the legislation, he did ask her to stop attacking individual Democratic senators, as she had in the fundraising email, but instead to focus her opposition on the particulars of the bill.

For his part, Schumer publicly opposes the bill but has done nothing in his power as a party leader to stop it.

As Politico reports:

Schumer gave the banking bill’s Democratic backers the green light to continue working with the GOP, according to moderate senators. He never told them to stop working on the bill. His message to the caucus was: ‘Everybody do what they got to do,’ according to moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).”

This bill, which would only enrich big banks and make a financial crisis more likely, is horrible policy.

And despite dire framing by outlets like Politico, which claimed Schumer “has to balance the needs of moderate caucus members who are desperate for a bipartisan accomplishment heading into brutal reelection races,” there is no good political case for Democrats to back this bill, either. The idea that backing banking deregulation would somehow help senators who are facing tough re-election races in Trump country is ridiculous. The president, after all, spent his campaign railing against Goldman Sachs.


If Schumer were an effective party leader in the realms of both policy and politics, he would have done everything he could to push moderate senators to vote against the bill and not capitulate to donors. Instead, he’s dragged his feet on coming out against the bill and has tried to play nice with both sides of the divide. Poor Chuck, indeed.

Clio Chang is a staff writer at Splinter.