Schumer prepares to be Senate leader, or Trump antagonist

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — As Hillary Clinton claims the Democratic Party's nomination for president, fellow New Yorker Chuck Schumer is preparing for his own next act, as Clinton's top Senate partner — or chief antagonist to Donald Trump if he wins in November.

Schumer is in line to become Senate Democratic leader next year with the retirement of Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. And if Democrats succeed in retaking control of the Senate, he will assume the job of majority leader and move into the pinnacle of Senate power, the role of a lifetime.

Schumer has been maneuvering for years, lining up support to leapfrog Reid's No. 2, Dick Durbin of Illinois, into the top job. This year he has been working intensely to ensure a Senate Democratic majority, most recently by luring former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana into running again for Senate, putting the previously non-competitive Indiana Senate seat into play.

Schumer is also fundraising at a feverish pace, banking some $27 million for his own coffers and to help Senate Democrats.

And if Clinton ends up in the White House, Schumer would have the opportunity to serve as her congressional partner in implementing an ambitious agenda on issues like infrastructure and jobs, promoting a more activist role for government than the stasis he complains has characterized the Senate under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

"We cannot have the kind of obstruction that we have seen under Sen. McConnell's leadership — can't get a Zika bill, can't get money for opioids, a lot of talk, no action," Schumer said in an interview. "The American people don't want that anymore."

Republicans dispute Schumer's criticism, claiming the Senate has been back to work under McConnell and that Democrats are to blame for inaction on a bill addressing the Zika virus.

Allies anticipate that as Democratic leader, the outspoken and camera-friendly Schumer, 65, will prove a more effective spokesman for the Democratic agenda than Reid, a soft-spoken master of the inside game but an awkward public speaker.

"He will be more aggressive in getting a message out. He knows how to talk to the media," said Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York.

And as majority leader and president, Schumer and Clinton would reprise, in different roles, the partnership they developed when they served together as New York senators from 2001-2009. The relationship was not without conflict as Clinton joined the Senate with a huge spotlight as a former first lady even though Schumer was technically the senior senator, having won in 1998. But fellow New York Democrats said ultimately they worked well together.

Schumer is known as a publicity hound, and "That's always been true of Chuck and it is deserved, but there's substance behind it," said New York Rep. Jerry Nadler. As for Clinton, "When she was in the Senate she was a workhorse and she was not always seeking publicity... That is a difference I suppose."

Schumer acted as something of a go-between when Sen. Bernie Sanders was nearing an endorsement of Clinton as Sanders' presidential bid petered out.

On issues the two are largely in sync after Clinton moved during the primaries to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership 12-nation Asian trade deal that's become a rallying cry for Democrats. Schumer vowed his opposition at a meeting of New York Democrats on Wednesday, getting applause by pledging: "Should I God willing become the majority leader we're going to have an entirely different approach on trade ... We're going to protect American workers first."

Schumer is famous for his attention to detail and his encyclopedic knowledge of politics as well as the needs' of constituents from Buffalo to Manhattan.

"You call up Chuck Schumer and say to him 'we're having a pump issue in the Rockland County sewer district' and it was akin to a papal audience because that's how interested he was in it," said Paul Adler, an attorney in White Plains and former county party chairman. "And you need that. That's the guts of government."