Grumbling in the caucus
At the Monday morning news conference on immigration, Schumer, who spent much of last year excoriating Republicans for alienating Hispanics, said, “we do not want immigration as a wedge issue” and lauded McCain as “the glue in our group.” He nodded emphatically as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) spoke. According to people familiar with the talks that produced the outlines of an immigration proposal, the New Yorker made concessions to help get Rubio on board and persistently appealed to the young Cuban American senator and presumptive 2016 presidential candidate.
Asked at the news conference why the senators were getting out in front of the White House’s immigration announcement on Tuesday, Schumer said, “It seems to me, at least, that the Senate is the most fortuitous place to move forward first.”
And what of Obama’s own vision for immigration reform, and his assertion in Nevada that “my hope is that this provides some key markers to members of Congress as they craft a bill”?
“The president is handling this perfectly,” Schumer said in a statement, adding, “He is also giving lawmakers on both sides the space to form a bipartisan coalition.”
Translation: Steer clear.
Despite his newfound bipartisan fervor, Schumer — the policy and messaging point person for Senate Democrats — has earned a reputation among his critics in the caucus as something of a freelancer. When House Republicans backed down from threats to link spending cuts to the raising of the debt ceiling, Schumer gleefully said the GOP was in “full retreat” on fiscal issues. He then climbed over his colleagues to beat back Republican threats to abandon their position if Democrats didn’t pass a budget in the Senate.
The Republicans unveiled their talking points on a Friday. On Saturday, Schumer called new Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Schumer, who was scheduled to appear on the Sunday political talk shows, wanted to reveal their intention to pass a budget with increased revenue — but in the larger, and Republican-friendly, framework of tax reform. Murray told Schumer the news was not his to break, according to several sources with knowledge of the call. But waiting was anathema to Schumer’s respond-to-everything-in-24-hours philosophy.
“We Democrats have always intended to do a budget this year,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as he articulated the Democrats’ plans.