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The Senator Has the Floor

Just One of the Guys

Chuck Schumer on just about anything:
Chuck Schumer on just about anything: "Can I take a digression? I love America and this is a great American story." (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

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"Yeah, you want to hear a great story? Can I take a digression? I love America and this is a great American story."

The story is about how former CIA head George Tenet is from Queens and how Schumer encountered Tenet's mother sitting on a beach chair during a parade there a few years ago.

"He's honest with me," Schumer says of George Tenet. "That's one of the benefits of being a Brooklynite. You're a straight shooter with people, and people are straight back with you. And sometimes you offend people."

Being the son of an exterminator gives Schumer a rare bit of common ground with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a former exterminator. Schumer's locker is close to DeLay's in the House gym, and they chat about many things, Schumer says.

Schumer says his father hated his job. Schumer vowed that he would never work in a job that he didn't enjoy. He indulged a fascination with politics, which he developed in college, and was elected to the New York Assembly at age 23 and the U.S. Congress at 29, in 1980.

Since 1982, Schumer has lived in a group house on Capitol Hill with a changing group of congressmen and senators. People who have visited or lived in the D Street dwelling -- which currently houses Schumer, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and William Delahunt (D-Mass.) -- say that the place resembles a college crash pad, strewn with food and beverage containers, with bantering men sprawled in T-shirts, sometimes even boxer shorts.

"Actually, when we talk about policy, we put on suits and ties," Schumer adds, reassuring a grateful nation.

Schumer's sensibility is decidedly male. He often refers to "the guys" or "the boys" when discussing his staff, colleagues or roommates. At one point during lunch, Schumer turns to his press secretary, Risa Heller, and asks what "fraternity" she belonged to in college.

Schumer says that God has blessed him with unlimited energy and little need for sleep. He is fond of saying that he has four full-time jobs, which he lists: head of the DSCC; a member of the Democratic leadership team in the Senate; being a legislator in Washington ("which I love"); and serving the people of New York ("which I love").

"I'm a New Yorker," he says.

Really?

"Coulda fooled ya, huh?" Schumer says. "I know I come off like I'm from Kansas."

The waitress brings the check and fortune cookies. Schumer cracks his open, suspecting that the reporter at the table planted something embarrassing inside.

"Something like, 'You love the press too much,' " he says, smirking.

The fortune says something about his family being young and attractive.

Schumer urges the reporter to join him the next day on a tour of Upstate New York in a tiny Beechcraft Bonanza he has flown in since 1998. "All throwing up will be off the record," he promises.

"Anyway, where was I?" Schumer says, stepping onto the sidewalk.

Ellis has left the building.


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