Senate Democrats Elect Chuck Schumer as New Minority Leader for Congress

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Senate Democrats voted Wednesday to elect gregarious, hard-charging New York Sen. Chuck Schumer as minority leader for the new Congress.

“I am going to wake up every single day focused on how Senate Democrats can effectively fight for America’s middle class and those struggling to join it,” Schumer said minutes after his election.

He said his party must learn from its stunning defeat in last week’s elections and unite behind a stronger economic message that acknowledges that the system is unfair to many Americans and must be improved.

The new minority leader expanded the Democratic leadership team from seven to 10, adding former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont as outreach chairman, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin as Democratic Conference secretary, and moderate Joe Manchin of West Virginia as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

Schumer said there has been a post-election debate among Democrats about what direction the party should take.

“Now there’s a debate going on about whether we should be the party of the diverse Obama coalition or the blue-collar American in the heartland,” Schumer said. “Some think we need to make a choice…I believe there does not have to be a division. In fact, there must not be a division. We need to be the party that speaks to and works on behalf of all Americans.”

He said Democrats need “a bigger, bolder, sharper-edged economic message” that focuses on helping middle class Americans do better. He added that the message must deal “directly with the unfairness in the American economic system.”

“When you lose an election like this, you can’t flinch,” Schumer said. “You can’t ignore it. You need to look it right in the eye and ask why, analyze it and learn from it. One thing we know is that we heard the American people loud and clear. They felt that the government wasn’t working for them. They felt that the economy was rigged against them in many places and that the government was too beholden to big money and special interests.”

Schumer said Democrats may find common ground with President-elect Donald Trump. “A silver lining in the deep clouds of this election is that President-elect Trump and his campaign were closer to us (on the economic issue) than to the Republican leadership.”

Schumer, who turns 66 next week, will replace 77-year-old Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. Reid opted to retire rather than run for re-election to the Senate, but he made it clear that he wanted Schumer to succeed him as Democratic leader.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Erin Kelly