Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday morning took a victory lap after Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) won his runoff election, declaring the Supreme Court’s decision striking down abortion rights and the House Jan. 6 hearings were key factors in Democrats expanding their Senate majority.
“It is a good morning, a great morning!” Schumer exulted at a press conference Wednesday, pointing out that this year was the first time since 1934 that the president’s party did not lose a single Senate incumbent in a midterm election.
Schumer said it looked in April like Democrats would lose control of the Senate. But the tide turned after a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court struck down the federal right to an abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the House Jan. 6 select committee’s public hearings put a spotlight on the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
He also cited Supreme Court decisions striking down a century-old New York law restricting the carrying of concealed firearms and limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate coal plants.
“In May and June, the public began to realize how far right these MAGA Republicans had gone. The Dobbs decision was the crystallization of that, of course, when people said, ‘Wow these MAGA Republicans are serious about turning the clock all the way back,’” Schumer said, referring to former President Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
“But then there were the two other Supreme Court decisions on concealed carry and on limiting what we could do to stop coal plants from poisoning the atmosphere,” he added.
Schumer also credited the House Jan. 6 hearings, in which two moderate Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), played starring roles, in bringing to light damning details surrounding the attack on the Capitol and what Trump did to encourage the violence that left several people dead.
“There were the Jan. 6 hearings. I think they had an important effect because people didn’t just read about something that happened once, but every night they saw on TV these hooligans, these insurrections being violent, beating up police officers,” Schumer told reporters.
“They saw all of that and they said, ‘Wow,’” he added. “And the third thing is they saw the Republican leaders wouldn’t even attack this craziness.”
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 ranking Senate GOP leader, however, pushed back Wednesday on Schumer’s assertion that Republican leaders were not vocal enough in condemning the Jan. 6 attack or Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
“He’s got his own theories on that. I think it was a lot of things,” Thune said of Schumer’s assessment of why Senate Democrats picked up a seat.
“I think it was pretty vocal. If you look at statements some of our leaders have made, including statements that I have made, and the attacks the president made on some of us throughout the process,” Thune said. “I don’t think it was unclear.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) condemned Trump’s behavior in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 attack in a fiery floor speech after voting to acquit him on technical grounds of inciting an insurrection in his second impeachment trial.
“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” he said. “The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”
McConnell said the pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol “because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he’d lost an election.”
Since that forceful speech, however, McConnell has rarely commented on Trump’s behavior or statements, though he did recently criticize the former president’s dinner with an outspoken white supremacist and antisemite and Trump’s suggestion that the Constitution should be suspended to allow him to return to the Oval Office.
Schumer on Wednesday said voters may have still had doubts about the Democrats’ ability to govern, but that changed after Democrats passed a bipartisan bill to address gun violence in the wake of two high-profile mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas.
He also cited passage of bipartisan legislation to help veterans suffering health problems because of exposure to toxic burn pits, radiation and other hazards and passage of a $280 billion bill to help the domestic semiconductor manufacturing industry compete with China.
And he lauded the enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act, which established a 15 percent minimum corporate tax, allocated $370 billion to energy programs and to fight climate change and set new rules for prescription drug pricing, as a major win.
“In June [voters] still held doubts about the Democratic Party,” Schumer noted. “The turning point really occurred this summer where we passed six major bills, five bipartisan, all of which affected people’s lives.”
“They were the things people wanted us to talk about. Making the environment better, dealing with the high cost of prescription drugs, helping our veterans … dealing with gun safety, getting American jobs here, not in China,” he said.
“By Sept. 1, I thought we’d win the Senate, we’d keep the Senate, because the combination of those two things was the powerful one-two punch that made us defy all the odds,” he said.