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On legislative tightrope, Schumer is leaning more to left

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) talks with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as they celebrate outside the U.S. Capitol Building after news that the White House intends to extend the eviction moratorium in place because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., August 3, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein WASHINGTON – As the coronavirus pandemic began to ravage the United States in the spring of 2020, Sen. Charles Schumer gathered some leading liberal economists to meet virtually with top Senate Democratic leaders and staffers to think through the federal government’s response.

Lawmakers were already entertaining upward of $2 trillion in spending – a stunning amount by Washington standards. But the economists made the case that conditions were ripe for not just a rescue of the economy, but a restructuring of it, and participants recalled that Schumer had one persistent question: What if we went bigger?

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Video: Schumer decries Republicans during debt ceiling floor speech That posture represented an unmistakable evolution for the 70-year-old New York Democrat, who spent years advocating for modest, poll-tested policies as he helmed his party’s campaign and messaging arms while also resisting efforts to target the financial industry and wealthy Americans, a core constituency in his home state.

Now, as Senate majority leader, Schumer has firmly cast his lot with a growing liberal bloc in his caucus that is increasingly comfortable with a more muscular federal government – and the higher taxes and spending needed to underpin it. He has repeatedly advocated for a "big and bold" economic agenda, one that can show Americans how government can play a productive role in their lives, and he has orchestrated a delicate legislative process for enacting it.

"Chuck has been out there for years making the case that government can be a positive force," said Daniel Squadron, a former Schumer aide who co-wrote a 2007 book about building a "middle-class majority" with the senator. "The universe of what’s possible has expanded, and this moment in particular, coming out of a once-in-a-century crisis, both requires and allows for solutions that are of a different scale than anything we’ve seen in a long time."

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