National Press Club

Schumer says Democrats should "embrace government"

November 25, 2014 | By Robert Weiner and Evan Baumel | weinerpublic@comcast.net, evan.baumel@gmail.com

Sen. Charles Schumer at a Club Newsmaker Nov. 25

Sen. Charles Schumer at a Club Newsmaker Nov. 25

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, called on Democrats to “embrace government, not run away from it” at a Club Newsmaker Nov. 25.

“The nation is on the edge of a crisis” as the middle class continues to suffer from weak wage growth," he said. "If wage deterioration continues, “we will have a fundamentally different country, a sour, angry country where people no longer get along.”

People are looking for a party that “offers positive and concrete solutions,” but do not want “to be disappointed each time,” he said.

“Democrats believe that an active and forceful government can and must be a positive force in people’s lives," he said. "Republicans believe government is detrimental – the less, the better."

Schumer said that spending to help the financial community under President George W. Bush in 2008 and the economic stimulus package enacted the following year under President Barack Obama proved that “only government can counter the big forces in our political economy.” They showed that Democrats, who controlled both houses of Congress at the time, "would go to work for the middle class.”

Another case in point: Voters in Alaska and Arkansas voted to raise the minimum wage earlier this month even as they ousted incumbent Democratic senators who supported such an increase.

Schumer said Democrats were wrong to concentrate on passing the Affordable Care Act so soon after winning the White House.

“We took the mandate and put all our focus on the wrong problem – health care reform," he said. While voting to expand health-care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, he said the issue “gave anti-government forces new life.” He said “the average middle class voter thought the Democrats are not paying attention to me” and that wage increases were more important to them.

Schumer questioned the Republicans' priorities in the new Congress.

“The Keystone pipeline might produce about 9,000 temporary jobs, in one limited part of the country,” he said. “A good highway infrastructure bill, which they can’t bring themselves to support, would create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and provide decades of economic growth.”

Likewise, repealing the medical device tax “might create a few jobs in a certain small industry," he said. Fully funding the National Institutes of Health, he said, "would create hundreds of thousands of jobs, not only with medical devices, but pharmaceuticals, biotech, and a host of other industries.”

When asked if Senate Democrats would demand 60 votes before Republican bills could be brought up for a vote, using the same tactics the Republicans did when they were in the minority, Schumer demurred.

"I never liked that strategy," he said. "Obstructionism doesn’t serve us as well as it serves them. We are the pro-government party.”