As debt ceiling talks kick off, Schumer fights to stay at center


Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer recalled when his predecessor, Harry M. Reid, learned that then-Vice President Joe Biden had struck a legislative deal with GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell without him. have done.

“Nobody knew what Joe Biden was actually doing in the Senate,” Schumer (DN.Y.) said of a turn in the fiscal negotiations between Democrats and congressional Republicans that began in 2011 and continued. It ultimately resulted in a government shutdown in 2013. .

But Reid’s former deputy doesn’t see a threat of a Democratic White House going around him as another fiscal showdown looms, saying he and President Biden remain locked on messaging and strategy. .

“I don’t think the president is going to cut me off because we’re united,” Schumer said in an interview in his office last week, adding that he had a great relationship with Biden and that he had an issue with the debt. Have spoken to them a dozen times. The rooftop situation is already there, including a recent trip on Air Force One.

And the Senate majority leader brings a confidence that Republicans will finally fold over their economic woes that come from facing many of the same deadlocks in their more than 40 years in Congress.

“Almost inevitably whoever triggers a shutdown or debt ceiling crisis loses,” Schumer said. “The side that is not taking hostages, not playing brinkmanship always has the upper hand. The side that is united has the upper hand.

“We have both — they don’t,” he added of the Republican.

Lawmakers will likely have some time this summer to raise the debt ceiling so the nation can pay off its current obligations and avoid an extraordinary default that could have dire consequences for the global economy. . Newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said he wants to use the pending. The deadline to hammer out yet-to-be-specified spending reforms sets up a potential standoff with Biden and congressional Democrats that some fear could be worse and more damaging than the 2011 and 2013 clashes.

Schumer brings to Congress decades of experience with past fiscal crises and has taken important lessons from them that are informing his strategy. As with the meeting between Biden and McCarthy at the White House, talks about the debt ceiling officially began last week. While a member of the House in 1995, Schumer carried with him a blown-up version of the New York Daily News’ “Cry Baby Newt” cover, mocking GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich for personally were partially shutting down the government due to perceived President Bill Clinton criticized the Air Force One sit-in. (An image of a crying Gingrich stuck in the anchor, and the incident has been credited with ending his presidential hopes.)

“Going into it it wasn’t clear who was going to benefit and who wasn’t going to benefit, and then when it was over it was one way. [for Democrats]” Former Schumer aide Jim Kessler, now executive vice president of policy at the Third Way think tank, said of the ’90s impasse.

Schumer later saw the top fiscal negotiations up close, as Reid’s top deputy through the Obama years of fiscal cliff and debt ceiling negotiations — where he learned the dangers of cuts from the White House. and later as Democratic leader during the Trump administration, when he and Republican Nancy Pelosi brokered spending and the debt ceiling. Both are in the minority in dealing with President Trump, which has been widely condemned by Republicans.

“If it looks like you’re laying eggs for one, saying, ‘I’m not going to do this until I get this’ — you usually lose,” Schumer said. . “And that’s from years of experience.”

Republicans disagree, saying voters will punish Democrats if they seriously discuss spending reform after Republicans took back the House in the midterms on Washington’s message of curbing spending. Not ready. (Schumer and Biden have said they believe Congress should raise the debt ceiling without tying it to other measures, but have not ruled out discussing budget changes separate from the debt ceiling.)

“We took the Senate in 2014 after the ’13 deadlock,” said Eric Cantor, the former No. 2 House Republican during Obama’s fiscal negotiations. “I’m not sure why [Democrats] Republicans always seem to get punished.

The size of Schumer’s role in the debt ceiling negotiations has yet to be determined. McCarthy and Biden met for more than an hour last week to begin preliminary talks, and House Republicans have made it clear they see the meat of the talks between the president and the speaker. McConnell, for his part, has said he expects the House to lead.

“It’s always a good sign when Schumer isn’t there,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) joked of the early negotiations. “He’s a troublemaker.”

“I suspect his role is muted, at least for now,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (RN.D), adding, “He’s obviously not a backbencher, but he’s on the bench.”

McCarthy acknowledged to reporters that both McConnell and Schumer would need to be involved in the negotiations, given that a deal that gets him out of the Senate would require both Democratic and Republican votes.

“At the end of the day, whatever deal we reach, they have to be a part of it, and Schumer has to be a part of it,” McCarthy said of the Senate GOP.

And given McCarthy’s slim majority, it’s possible that the bulk of the debt ceiling negotiations could end up in the Senate if it reaches June and McCarthy can’t muster enough support for a solution. Schumer has said he doesn’t believe McCarthy has the 218 Republican votes to pass anything related to the debt ceiling, given the objections of some hard-right members of his conference. has been raised. Schumer has also mocked McCarthy on the floor for not being able to articulate what spending reforms he actually wants, repeatedly demanding the speaker “show us his cards” if he’s serious about negotiations. .

“The Senate can be the adults in the room and help move us toward a solution where we’re not the default,” said Schumer, who added that she stands with McCarthy and for him. Feels “sympathetic” because he was struggling to muster enough. Voting to elect Speaker in January

Yet a core piece of Schumer’s challenge will be avoiding a late 2012 rerun, when Biden, whom Obama tasked with coming up with a deal to block spending cuts and tax increases while the Republican House Failing to do so, he bypassed Reid in the Senate and cut a deal directly with Minority Leader McConnell to preserve most of the Bush tax cuts in exchange for a temporary delay in spending cuts.

To maintain dominance this time around, Schumer must also make sure to keep his caucus together, which could prove challenging given Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.), who faces a tough 2024 re-election bid in a red state. Jung, has already met with McCarthy to discuss a possible deal, and Schumer has other moderate members of his caucus for re-election. Schumer says there is “virtual unity” in the caucus on the debt ceiling, and his allies say he is deliberately giving his members political wiggle room by embracing a broad “show us your plan” message that would rather than rejecting McCarthy altogether.

“The day a senator in the Democratic caucus decides, ‘Well the majority leader doesn’t really call the shots for us as a team’ — that’s exactly what Kevin McCarthy needs,” said Faiz Shaker, of Reid. “He needs to break the coalition of Democrats and find a way to eliminate some people,” said a former aide and political consultant to Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Schumer’s allies point out that the White House has followed Schumer’s lead on messaging, with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called him “instrumental in making it happen.” The White House initially said raising the debt ceiling was not up for negotiation. But after Biden invited McCarthy to a meeting, the White House sent its message to McCarthy to make public his spending demands — the same call Schumer was making on the Senate floor.

“I think it was a melding of minds,” Schumer said of the message, which he and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Biden agreed to at a White House meeting in January. “I brought it [Biden]He liked it.”

Pelosi said Schumer has the advantage of a unified caucus, but the bulk of the action at this stage is between Biden and McCarthy.

“The reality is that the conversation — I don’t want to call it a negotiation — is between the White House and House Republicans,” Pelosi said.

But the former Speaker of the House said the majority leader would be ready if the talks went their way.

“One thing I know about Chuck is that he knows his caucus, he knows the Senate and he’s always going to be ready for whatever alternative comes up,” Pelosi said.

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