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Schumer Remakes the Ohio Clock Show

Minority leader brings out Sanders and Stabenow to bash Trump on trade

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders added some flair to Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s press conference on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders added some flair to Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s press conference on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is, predictably, louder and more animated than his predecessor as Democratic leader, Nevada’s Harry Reid. When Democrats addressed the media in the Capitol’s Ohio Clock Corridor after weekly policy lunches, reporters often needed to huddle as close to the lectern as possible just to hear Reid over background noise. There is no such problem with Schumer. 

And this week, the first full one of the Trump White House, a fired-up  Schumer emerged from Tuesday’s Democratic caucus lunch with reinforcements in the form of two lieutenants with particular interest in the New York’s message of the day on trade policy.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Bernie Sanders of Vermont joined Schumer, who said he would be changing up the rotation by which members of the caucus speak to the press in the Ohio Clock Corridor.

On Tuesday, Schumer and his cohorts pressed Trump to label China as a currency manipulator, saying that the president had made campaign promises about it (and that the legislation to do so was championed by both Schumer and Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general nominee).

“He’s failing to deliver on one of his key Day One promises that we Democrats repeatedly identified as an issue that we want to work with him on, which is trade. All of us have had positions coming closer to … President Trump’s than to President Obama or President Bush on trade,” Schumer said. “I opposed NAFTA back in 1994, and, of course, TPP.”

Trump issued an executive action Monday withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Schumer and Sanders each opened their remarks with rapid responses to comments made in private by Trump and confirmed publicly by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer about the president’s view that anywhere from 3 million to 5 million people cast illegal votes in last year’s election, mainly to help his opponent, popular-vote winner Hillary Clinton.

“It’s a belief that he’s maintained,” Spicer said of Trump’s allegations about rampant voter fraud, for which there is no evidence.

“Maybe we will,” Spicer said, when asked more than once about a possible investigation, though he previously seemed skeptical of that idea.

Sanders pushed back hard.

“What I fear about that statement, and what is something we should all worry about, is when Trump talks about three to five million people voting illegally, he is sending a message to every Republican governor in this country to go forward with voter suppression,” Sanders said. “The great political and democratic crisis we face now in this country is not voter fraud. It is voter suppression.”

Schumer said Trump’s comments, now widely reported but made during a private reception with House and Senate leaders Monday at the White House, were responded to by those in attendance, and that he didn’t want to get into details about it.

 John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

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