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Why Chuck Schumer isn’t mad about cheesecake

Chuck Schumer knows his way around a cheesecake, and he’s not afraid to admit it.

In fact, he was delighted. “It’s my guilty pleasure,” he said at a Sunday press conference, holding up a tray of gleaming treats. 

He smiled. This was not the face of someone bothered by reports that his political action committee, Friends of Schumer, spent more than $8,600 at Junior’s Cheesecake in Brooklyn over the course of a decade. “Maybe they should call him Sen. Chuck E. Cheesecake,” the New York Post wrote, after reviewing Federal Election Commission filings.

The Senate minority leader gladly owned up to it. “I give them as gifts,” he said during the press conference.

But he didn’t stop there. “I use them for bets, you know when someone wants to bet something, you know for a Brooklyn thing versus a Wisconsin thing,” the New York Democrat said. “So I say to the New York Post and others, guilty as charged. I love Junior’s cheesecake. It’s the best cheesecake in the world.”

We couldn’t verify that the landmark restaurant makes the best cheesecake in the world, though flavors like “Raspberry Swirl” and “Brownie Explosion” sound plausibly delicious. What we do know is that members of Congress will take any chance they can get to promote products from their home states. When Schumer mentioned congressional “bets,” that’s what he was talking about. 

Food-related wagers are rampant at the Capitol, and Heard on the Hill has complained about them before.

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When one lawmaker bets another a cheesecake (or a wheel of cheese, or whatever) on the outcome of the “Big Game,” they don’t do it because they love sports — or even cheesecake as a general food group. What they love is looking entirely committed to the local products that come from where their voters live.

In this case, that’s cheesecake from Junior’s in Brooklyn. Local cheesecake matters, even to the Senate minority leader, who has to play to both the local and national crowds.

Sometimes going local is hard. When Elizabeth Warren went after Amy Klobuchar in a recent debate, telling her she had a health care proposal “like a Post-it note,” Klobuchar reached for a comeback involving her home state: The Post-it note was invented in Minnesota.

Other times going local is easy — as smooth as cheesecake. No wonder Schumer didn’t care when the New York Post mocked him this weekend. Calling him “Sen. Cheesecake” is just calling him “Sen. Home State Pride,” and that, in the end, is a win. 

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