Chuck Schumer: ‘I Believe That Democracy Is at Risk and We Cannot Fail’

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) says the U.S. Senate needs to prove to the American people that elections matter by passing transformational laws like the American Rescue Act and the proposed American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan . To do this, the Senate must also defend democracy by passing the For the People Act, the package of voting rights protection and electoral reforms that the House passed as HR 1 – but which Schumer likes to refer to as S 1.

In an exclusive interview with The nationHe spoke about how the January 6 uprising heightened his fears for the country, the filibuster and the work he must do to unite his caucus, and his sense of urgency about the future of democracy in a time when Republican lawmakers choose voters to vote for repressive legislation. This long interview has been edited lightly to provide context and continuity.

J.without N.ichols: A major theme in President Biden’s speech to the joint session of Congress at the end of April was democracy. In particular, he spoke about the importance of proving that democracy can work in the 21st century. Do you share this view?

C.huck S.Chumer: Absolutely. So I’m going to tell you a story to help explain it

JN: Do it.

CS: It’s my January 6th and you’ll see where I go. I call it the best time, the worst time, after the first sentence in Charles Dickens’ novel A fairy tale about two cities.

As you know, the elections in Georgia took place on January 5th. When we started we thought it was an uphill battle, almost impossible. As January 5th rolled around we thought we might be the underdogs, but we had a real chance to win. So I’m on the hook all day. I stay up all night listening to the results.

Tuesday evening merges with Wednesday morning. I’m on the computer. How many votes does Chatham County have? How many African Americans are in DeKalb County etc? Four amit becomes clear that [the Rev.] Raphael Warnock is the winner and it becomes clear [Jon] Ossoff will win too.

Now I’ve achieved my long-time goal of being the majority leader and the first emotion, as one might expect, is just joy, total joy.

When you’ve set yourself an important goal – it could be personal, it could be family, it could be professional – and you achieve it after many detours and logs along the way, you feel great.

But almost immediately I had a second emotion that crept in on me and surprised me at how quickly and how strongly it came on. I’m trying to find the right word for it. The best word I can think of is awe – not the way my teenage daughters used it – “Gee, Dad, this movie was great” – but kind of in the biblical sense. When the angels saw the face of God, they trembled with awe.


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