Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed that Democrats would oppose Donald Trump’s most controversial policies, but not all of the president-elect’s legislation, echoing earlier reports about Schumer and other Democrat leaders’ willingness to align themselves with some of Trump’s campaign promises. “We’re not going to oppose him just because it’s something that Trump sponsors,” Schumer said, noting that “candidate Trump voiced very progressive and populist opinions” on things like the carried-interest loophole, trade-deal reform, and infrastructure spending. He added that he hopes President Trump will “stick with them and work with us, even if it means breaking with the Republicans who have always opposed these things.”
The political wisdom of Democratic lawmakers working with Trump remains up for debate, but the president-elect sure seemed happy about Schumer’s olive branch on Sunday. Trump quickly responded to the interview and tweeted approvingly that, “I have always had a good relationship with Chuck Shumer. He is much smarter than Harry R, and actually, far more cunning — gets things done.” Trump then deleted that tweet and wrote another one in which a less-cunning Schumer had a properly spelled name:
Last January, Trump had also commented that he and Schumer were “close” in many ways.
Schumer, however, seems to already be sensitive to the idea that he is some kind of Trump ally. The president-elect did donate about $9,000 to Schumer’s political campaigns over the years, and in addition to running into each other in New York, Schumer once made a brief appearance on Trump’s reality show, The Apprentice. In a new interview with Politico, Schumer insisted that the two were just casual acquaintances before Trump’s campaign, and he emphasized that “[Trump] was not my friend. We never went golfing together, even had a meal together.”
In the Meet the Press interview, the New York senator declared that, “On issues where our values are at stake, where the president goes in a divisive direction, where his campaign did before, we’ll go against him with everything we’ve got.” He vowed that that Democratic senators would block the repeal of Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial reform, and they wouldn’t help Trump build his proposed border wall either. Speaking with Politico, Schumer also wouldn’t commit to helping Trump dismantle President Obama’s landmark nuclear deal with Iran, though the senator did originally oppose it.
On working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and wielding the Senate’s supermajority rules to prevent votes, Schumer also told Politico that “We won’t block legislation coming to the floor if they don’t curtail amendments,” but “that’s not going to be universally true but we’re going to try to do that more.”
Democratic senators won’t be able to block Trump’s cabinet appointments with the threat of a filibuster, thanks to a rule change that Senator Harry Reid made in 2013, but Schumer wouldn’t commit to supporting or opposing any of Trump’s picks so far anyway — though he has already criticized cabinet appointees Steve Bannon and General Michael Flynn. Democratic senators will be able to block Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, unless the Republican’s do away with the filibuster for SCOTUS appointments as well.