Chuck Schumer lays out the Schumer agenda
On Sunday morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer took some time from his busy weekend serving as master of ceremonies for President Obama's second inauguration to talk about his legislative ambitions for 2013.
"We're going to do a budget this year, and it's going to have revenues in it," said Schumer in an appeareance on "Meet the Press."
Schumer called the Republicans' recent decision to punt a debt-ceiling fight into April "a major victory for the president," and signaled that Democrats were willing to meet the G.O.P.'s demand for a budget blueprint, but only with revenue increases.
"And our Republican colleagues better get used to that fact," he said.
Officially, Schumer ranks third among Democrats in the Senate, but, at the moment, he's effectively the upper chamber's M.C. on a number of the highest-profile issues in Washington.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, who courted the National Rifle Association in his close race for re-election in 2010, has been happy to cede the lead on gun control to Schumer, who became a lifetime target of the N.R.A. when he helped author the Brady Bill twenty years ago. At the same time, Schumer has restarted his push for immigration reform with South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham. And Schumer, after holding out, has emerged as a key supporter of Chuck Hagel, the president's nominee for defense secretary, who has come under attack by Republicans and some pro-Israel groups for his past positions in the Senate.
On gun control, Schumer said he's authoring legislation to expand the system of background checks, a longtime cause that was finally backed by the White House last week.
"I'd say this is the sweet spot in terms of actually making us safer and having a good chance of passing, this is it," he told host David Gregory.
Appearing alongside him was Sen. Ted Cruz, the recently elected Tea Party favorite from Texas who declined to denounce the National Rifle Association's latest ad calling Obama an "elitist hypocrite," but still said he could support expanded background checks.
"I think the fact that we have background checks when people buy firearms, and we prevent felons and those with serious mental illnesses from acquiring them, I think those make perfect sense," said Cruz, who Schumer referred to as "friend," despite having previously called Cruz's victory a "disaster" for Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.
The other components of the president's proposal didn't inspire as much agreement. Schumer made the case for the effectiveness of the assault weapons ban, which Cruz dimissed, and for closing the gun show loophole, which Cruz said "doesn't exist."
Cruz asked Schumer to "make news right now" by agreeing to one of Cruz's bills, to ensure the government never defaults in the future, but Schumer wasn't going to be snookered by his freshman colleague.
"I support the concept, I'd have to look at the bill," said Schumer.
He also explained, again, his conversion on Hagel, whose nomination Schumer tentatively endorsed last week after Hagel apparently addressed his concerns in personal conversations.
"At those hearings, he's going to allay the concerns of many people," Schumer predicted.
Schumer was widely, though not universally, considered a necessary endorsement for Hagel to reassure pro-Israel groups.
"I notice not a lot of people rallied to join him and say 'well it's good enough for Schumer, it is good enough for me,'" said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri on "Fox News Sunday."