Sunday, June 7, 2009

SCHUMER a "Go To" Man in Legislative Circles

One of ours;

Chuck Schumer has Obama's ear but maybe not his love

BY Kenneth R. Bazinet and Michael Mcauliff

Sunday, June 7th 2009, 4:00 AM

Senator Chuck Schumer always has an ear and eye on the political pulse.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer has crafted a role as one of the White House's go-to legislators. That doesn't mean they have to like him.

Schumer's marquee clout is on display these days. The administration tapped him to guide Sonia Sotomayor through the Supreme Court confirmation process that began last week.

A week earlier, he convinced President Obama to help clear the New York Democratic primary field for Schumer's protégé, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, even though Obama had favored Caroline Kennedy to replace Hillary Clinton.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel says Schumer has pull because of his work ethic and uncanny political savvy.

"I talk to Chuck, I don't know if it's every day, but it's numerous times a week," said Emanuel, who added he likes Schumer just fine. "You never leave a conversation without learning something or getting a good idea, or without him willing to help the President. ... I can't speak highly enough of him."

Still, mention of the famously aggressive Brooklynite is seldom met with a smile by many others who work for Obama. More common are complaints or rolls of the eyes.

A witness to Obama's recent credit card law-signing ceremony was aghast when Schumer tried to muscle his way to a spot nearer the President.

A senior White House aide was unimpressed when Schumer became point man for a key piece of health-care legislation, and indicated other senators would have served just as well.

No apologies were made after Obama went out of his way to praise Emanuel for winning back a Democratic majority in the House but left out Schumer, who won 13 Senate seats over two elections heading that effort.

It probably doesn't help that Schumer has an independent streak and doesn't fear criticizing the White House. Recently he slammed a plan to scale back a federal terrorism-insurance program New York builders need.

He began to rub some White House aides the wrong way during the transition when they felt he failed to back Obama's friend Caroline Kennedy as Clinton's successor, sources said.

Schumer favored Gillibrand early, and although he met with Kennedy more than once, many on Obama's team were not satisfied.

Many White House aides, moreover, are leery of Schumer's ties to Wall Street, though recently he's taken a tougher stand on financiers than has the Oval Office.

Emanuel said none of the antipathy extends to Obama, Vice President Biden or himself.

"No bull----, all crap aside, I don't know who's saying whatever," Emanuel told the Daily News. "I'm speaking for the chief of staff to the President of the United States. The chief of staff takes his phone calls and returns his phone calls."

Emanuel spoke to The News at the urging of Schumer, who was concerned this story would be overly negative. "Chuck is worried about the last [negative] 10%, which is why I like Chuck," Emanuel said.

Sources familiar with Schumer's interactions with the White House cite numerous previously undisclosed collaborations to prove his worth to Obama.

Before telling the Senate about Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's tax problems during his confirmation, the White House went to Schumer, who offered advice and real-time intelligence on his colleagues' reactions.

The President tapped Schumer as an emissary with labor groups and senators who don't like a union election bill Obama backs.

And when conservative Democrats balked at the White House concept for a government-run health-care option, health czar Nancy DeParle asked Schumer to put out his compromise plan.

Yet, antipathy remains. Observers say that's not surprising. "In a lot of ways Chuck Schumer is a personification of New York, almost to the point of being a caricature," said ex-Clinton White House aide Chris Lehane.

"He's sort of like the Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells of coaches," Lehane said. "You may not like him, but you want to play for him because he's a winner."



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