Noted anti-gun lawmaker New York Sen. Chuck Schumer will lead Democrats in the Senate while California’s Dianne Feinstein was named ranking Dem on the Judiciary Committee.
Schumer was elected to the lead the party Wednesday, succeeding retiring Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. Democrats hold a powerful minority in the chamber and when counting independents who caucus along with them will hold at least 48 seats in the new Senate beginning in 2017. As 60 votes are needed in the 100-seat chamber to invoke cloture on bills and Presidential nominees, Democratic support will be crucial despite a Republican majority.
“We’re ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Republicans, working with soon-to-be President Trump on issues where we agree,” said Schumer, speaking to media on Wednesday. “But we will go toe-to-toe against the President-elect whenever our values or the progress we’ve made is under assault.”
Schumer in recent years has been outspoken on gun control initiatives, calling to mandate Brady-style background checks on private gun sales, limit sales of some types of magazines and increase reporting of those prohibited from possessing firearms from states to the federal database.
As part of his announcement, Schumer railed against the “unfairness in the American economic system” as Vermont’s Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders looked on.
Sanders, along with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, were named to Schumer’s leadership team. Manchin is notable for his expanded background check legislation proffered with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, as well as pressure he applied to his home state’s governor to veto a constitutional carry bill.
Also moving up in the ranks is Dianne Feinstein, who will become the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — the key group of lawmakers that gets first crack at any potential nominee to the federal courts andJustice Department leaders.
“One of our first orders of business will be the consideration of a new attorney general and a new Supreme Court justice,” said Feinstein, who seemed ready for a fight in a statement issued by her office Wednesday.
“After the unprecedented and disrespectful treatment of Merrick Garland—a moderate judge who should have been quickly confirmed—the committee will pay very close attention to proposed nominees to ensure the fundamental constitutional rights of Americans are protected,” she said.
Echoing Schumer’s remarks, the senior California senator — who will be joined in the Senate by current California Attorney General Kamala Harris who is won election to Barbara Boxer’s vacated seat — is girding for war.
“When President-elect Trump is willing to support responsible policies and nominees, I’ll hear him out, but this committee has a vital role to protect the Constitution and scrutinize policies, senior officials and judges very carefully, and that’s what we intend to do,” Feinstein said. “We simply won’t stand aside and watch the tremendous successes achieved over the past eight years be swept away or allow our nation’s most vulnerable populations to be targeted.”
Honored & humbled by the support of my colleagues to be the next leader of our caucus & by the support from so many of you. Thank you.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 16, 2016