POLITICS -- November 8, 2012 at 5:23 PM EDT
Schumer: Voters Want Compromise
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
Sen. Chuck Schumer predicts more cooperation in the next session of Congress than the partisan atmosphere that defined Capitol Hill following the 2010 midterm elections.
The New York Democrat said that the electorate has signaled to lawmakers that it's time to change.
"Political forces are very strong, they are almost like [Hurricane] Sandy," Schumer told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
"The people who lead the Republican Party know their positions caused them to lose and they are going to have to change," he said. "Voters sent us a message to work together and solve issues."
Schumer said the results show the tea party "has peaked and is on the descent."
"Of those tea party candidates who won, many ran away from the tea party platform," he said.
The record number of women set to serve in the Senate during the next session of Congress -- there will be 20 -- will facilitate compromise, Schumer said. "All things being equal, women make better candidates," he said. "The electorate wants people to compromise and come together and women are good at doing that."
Schumer, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, said the nation "demands" that Congress tackle immigration. It's "at the top of the list," he said.
Other key issues for 2013 include energy independence and financial reform. Schumer also said Democrats will put "a relentless focus" on policies that strengthen the middle class.
"I think Democrats have gotten much better at focusing our policies on middle class folks," said Schumer, who also serves as chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. "One of the reasons we lost [control of the House] in 2010 was voters said, 'they don't care about us,' and we have corrected that."
Outlining negotiations that will soon begin on preventing the country from going off a "fiscal cliff," Schumer said voters have embraced the proposal to raise taxes on higher income earning individuals, which was part of President Obama's closing argument prior to Election Day. He also says that business leaders he's spoken to in recent days would accept increasing rates to 39.6 percent, if the increase "is part of a real deficit package."
But he said he is not in favor of reducing tax rates on top earners from the existing 35 percent rate, as promoted by some Republican lawmakers and which was part of a $4 trillion debt reduction plan former Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles offered last fall.
"If you reduce the tax rates you cannot get the revenue you need to do significant deficit reduction without hurting the middle class," he said.