ALBANY – Soon the most powerful Democrat in Washington, Sen. Charles Schumer said he hopes he can find common ground with President-elect Donald Trump on issues that would benefit New York, such as more infrastructure funding and reforms to trade agreements.
But Schumer, in an interview with the USA Today Network’s Albany Bureau, said he also won’t hesitate to fight Trump on policy issues.
“Where we can work together and where our values are on the same page: I’m not just going to oppose things just because the name Trump is on it,” Schumer said in an interview with the USA Today Network’s Albany Bureau.
“On the other hand, when our values are at stake or I disagree, I’m going to oppose tooth and nail.”
As New York’s senior senator, Schumer won re-election overwhelmingly on Election Day.
The win propelled him as successor to Nevada Harry Reid as Senate minority leader – although Schumer was hoping Democrats would win enough seats to make him majority leader.
Nonetheless, Schumer will serve as the Democrats’ point person in the Senate to either try to block Trump’s policies and appointees or work with the Republican president on legislative compromises.
In some cases, Trump will find a more sympathetic ear from Schumer than he might have otherwise.
Schumer has known Trump for decades, and the Manhattan developer has given at least $7,900 to Schumer’s prior election bids.
The two have talked several times since Trump’s election, and they share some similar policy positions.
"I have always had a good relationship with Chuck Schumer,” Trump said in a tweet Nov. 20. “He is far smarter than Harry R and has the ability to get things done. Good news!"
Schumer, for example, has been outspoken in seeking reforms to the nation’s trade deals, has pushed for a large infrastructure fund and has supported closing a carried-interest loopholes that lets some Wall Street managers pay lower taxes.
Trump has offered similar proposals.
“Our trade policies have decimated manufacturing throughout upstate New York, and I believe that our trade laws need to change,” Schumer said, adding his main issue is with China.
“China takes extreme advantage of us, and we just sit there and don’t do anything about it,” Schumer continued.
He added, “It’s a scenario where President Trump and I and the Democrats can work together to change our trade laws and not let so many jobs go overseas.”
Then there are the areas of disagreement.
Schumer has vowed to fight a repeal or overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. And the Democratic senator from Brooklyn said Trump’s immigration plans would also be scrutinized, as well as proposals to loosen regulations on Wall Street.
Schumer said senators, including he and John McCain, wrote a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013 that Trump should consider. And he added that Trump has already talked about keeping popular pieces of Obamacare, such as protecting insurance for people with per-existing conditions.
New York has a critical stake in both issues: It has 4.4 million immigrants, second only to California in the nation; and it has 3 million people enrolled in its state-run health exchange.
“Donald Trump ran against both the Republican and Democratic establishments. And a lot of the reasons why he won over blue-collar America were things that Democrats support: such as changing our trade laws, such as a large infrastructure bill, such as closing the carried interest loophole,” Schumer said.
“If he were to abandon his anti-establishment position and just adopt the views of the hard right, it will be bad for the country -- and his presidency will be a flop.”
Schumer has also warned Trump about many of his appointees, such as Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, saying Democrats will ensure he goes through a proper vetting during his confirmation hearings.
“I think the president has an obligation when there is bigotry of any type, to speak out strongly against it,” Schumer said.
So Schumer, 66, said he will look for compromise with his fellow New Yorker, saying that despite his new position he will remain focused on his home state.
Schumer makes it a point to tour all 62 counties each year – a campaign promise he’s fulfilled since first being elected in 1998.
“New York is in my bones. I love this state and every corner of it,” he said. “My new responsibilities are not going to get in the way of my desire and energy and time in terms of helping New York.
“And if in fact, if I have more clout, I’ll use it to help New York.”