Delivering his first floor speech as Senate majority leader, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he is “hopeful” after the inauguration of Biden and Harris but that the United States still faces a host of challenges.
He also vowed that the chamber will “do business differently” now that Democrats are in charge.
As Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced him as Senate majority leader for the first time, Schumer paused, then exhaled.
“I need to catch my breath,” he said. “So much is happening.”
Schumer then hailed the victories of Biden and Harris, welcomed the chamber’s three newest members — Warnock, Ossoff and Padilla — and delivered a defiant message to the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol two weeks ago.
“It takes more than a band of hooligans to bring our democracy down,” Schumer said. “Our democracy, though tried and tested, shall long endure. Let it be a message to those terrorists who desecrated this temple of democracy that they will never prevail.”
He noted that the new Congress begins its work “in the wake of violence and division, hatred and mistruth; in the shadow of disease and economic hardship, a warming planet, an unequal society.”
“Today the threat to our democracy from the presidency itself has ended, but the challenges we face as a nation remain,” he said.
Schumer also took some time to note his own barrier-breaking role as the first New York-born Senate majority leader. He described himself as “a kid from Brooklyn, the son of an exterminator and a housewife, descendants of victims of the Holocaust.”
“That I should be the leader of this new Senate majority is an awesome responsibility — awesome in the biblical sense,” he said, adding: “As the majority changes in the Senate, the Senate will do business differently. The Senate will address the challenges our country faces head-on and without delay, not with timid solutions, but with boldness and with courage.”
Speaking after Schumer, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in his first floor speech as Senate minority leader, congratulated Biden, Harris and the three new senators.
“I congratulate my friend from Delaware and look forward to working with him as our new president wherever possible,” McConnell said of Biden. “Our country deserves for both sides, both parties, to find common ground for the common good everywhere that we can and to disagree respectfully where we must.”