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14 things to know about Chuck Schumer, Senate Democrats' likely next leader

Chuck Schumer.
Chuck Schumer.
Tom Williams/ CQ-Roll Call Group

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) looks overwhelmingly likely to become his party's next leader in the Senate, now that he's gotten the endorsement of the chamber's current top two Democrats. And though his personal history contains fewer fistfights than Harry Reid's, over his decades in politics Schumer has affected Americans' lives quite a bit — from creating the now-ubiquitous credit card fee disclosure box to helping kill the caffeinated alcoholic beverage Four Loko.  And yes, he is related to Comedy Central's Amy Schumer — read on for more.

  1. Born in Brooklyn, and schooled at Harvard and Harvard Law, Schumer has been in politics for a very long time. At age 23, he was elected to his first office — the New York State Assembly, in 1974. In 1980, he won a spot in the US House of Representatives, and in 1998 he defeated a Republican incumbent senator. He has never lost an election.
  2. During high school, Schumer worked for the company that eventually became the Kaplan test-prep empire. "It was a mom-and-pop operation in those days," Schumer told the Wall Street Journal. "It was my first job. I would go get [Stanley Kaplan] dinner at the cafeteria,"
  3. Schumer's love of media attention is well-known and much-teased on the Hill. A popular line, once aimed at former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) but since widely adopted to refer to Schumer, is that "the most dangerous place" in Washington is between Schumer and a TV camera.
  4. Schumer has a long history of extensive fundraising from the finance industry (much of which, of course, is centered in New York). A 2008 New York Times report found that he "repeatedly" took steps "to protect industry players from government oversight and tougher rules," and has "helped save financial institutions billions of dollars in higher taxes or fees."
  5. Schumer created the box on credit card agreements that summarizes costs and charges (listing the interest rate, annual fee, and other information). It is referred to as the "Schumer box," because as a congressman, Schumer won passage of it in the Fair Credit and Charge Card Disclosure Act of 1989.
    Schumer Box
  6. Schumer's political strategy is, overall, aimed at appealing to middle-class voters rather than the left of the Democratic Party. He wrote a 2007 book, Positively American, which argued that in recent years, Democrats "had forgotten the middle class." In it, Schumer invented a fictional couple, Joe and Eileen Bailey of suburban Long Island, who are patriotic churchgoers who voted for both Reagan and Clinton. "Today, wherever I go, they are always at my side," Schumer wrote, arguing that the Democratic agenda should appeal to "the Baileys."
  7. A powerhouse fundraiser, Schumer rose in his party's leadership ranks after his successful chairmanship of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 2005 to 2008. Over those two election cycles, the party netted 14 seats overall, regaining control of the chamber and getting one seat away from a filibuster-proof majority. Showing exquisite timing, Schumer stepped down as chair before the 2010 elections, when Democrats lost several seats.
  8. Schumer was the key Democratic architect of the Senate's 2013 immigration bill, as Ryan Lizza chronicled at length in the New Yorker. Schumer helped put together the "Gang of Eight" senators that crafted the bill, and strategized about political and policy compromises to get the bill through the Senate (it stalled, however, in the House). Schumer "sees himself principally as a dealmaker, and he is often critical of the left," Lizza wrote.
  9. Schumer played a key role in killing Four Loko, the caffeinated alcoholic beverage that was all the rage in 2010. Schumer cited the case of an 18-year old girl who died after drinking the beverage, and argued the drinks were "spreading like a plague across the country." The FDA soon decreed that drinks combining caffeine and alcohol were unsafe, and the company bowed to increasing public pressure and removed caffeine from the drink.
  10. When Schumer got a scam robocall to his cellphone purporting to offer an extended car warranty, he was so furious that he complained to the FTC. Just a week later, the FTC filed complaints against two companies involved. "I am pleased by the FTC's quick action on our request," Schumer said.
  11. As the previous two items suggest, Schumer has frequently called for products to be banned, from potentially dangerous chemicals to a violent video game to powdered alcohol. Reason has a full, lengthy rundown here.
  12. Schumer also has proposed letting fashion designers copyright the clothes they design — read more on that from Timothy Lee here.
  13. If he is elected Democrats' Senate leader next year, Schumer would become the first Jewish top leader of a congressional party caucus.
  14. Senator Schumer is indeed related to Amy Schumer, host of Comedy Central's Inside Amy Schumer. The comedian's father is Chuck Schumer's cousin. (Also, Chuck's daughter Jessica has been chief of staff for the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and his wife, Iris Weinshall, was New York City's transportation commissioner under Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg.)