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Democrats re-elect Schumer as leader after expanding Senate majority to 51

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New York Sen. Chuck Schumer was unanimously re-elected Thursday as the Senate Democratic Leader after the party defied historic expectations and expanded its majority in the 2022 midterm elections. 

Senate Democrats met behind closed doors at the Capitol to choose their leadership team for the new Congress that begins in January. Schumer will continue to lead Democrats as Congress transitions to divided government, with Republicans set to take control of the House come January. 

As Senate majority leader, Schumer has a demonstrated record of pushing President Biden’s legislative priorities through the Senate, even enlisting bipartisan support for major bills and recruiting quality candidates who have fended off challenges from Republicans supported by former President Trump. 

He took the helm in the weeks after the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol and led his party through the COVID-19 crisis, securing passage of the American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act without GOP support. However, he has also brought Republicans on board for significant bills, including infrastructure legislation, gun control, support for U.S. semiconductor chip manufacturing against Chinese competition and a bill that would codify same-sex marriage.  

With an unpopular Democratic president and an economy hampered by record-high inflation, the political environment was primed for Democrats to suffer midterms losses. However, Schumer, a former campaign chief, steered the party to victory and expanded its majority to 51 seats with Sen. Raphael Warnock’s runoff election win Tuesday in Georgia. 

The conference will now move forward with a united front in contrast to Republicans, who re-elected Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., last month but not without dissent. Ten Republicans reportedly voted for Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who challenged McConnell on he grounds that the party lacks a vision that appeals to voters following a disappointing midterm elections’ performance by the GOP. 

It is an assessment that Schumer shares, though for different reasons than Scott. 

‘People understood that the Republican Party was not the Republican Party of 10 or 15 years ago. It had become a MAGA party, and frankly, one of our successes in messaging was calling it the MAGA party,’ Schumer told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in an interview Wednesday. 

‘This party rejects Democracy, this party doesn’t really tell the truth … they never have any solutions at all,’ he said, explaining that independent and Republican-leaning voters ultimately supported Democrats, helping the party overcome historic trends.

Schumer’s re-election puts two New Yorkers at the top of the Democratic leadership in Congress, alongside Rep. Hakeem Jefferies, the incoming House minority leader. Jeffries was elected to lead Democrats after Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to step aside next year.

The rest of the party’s Senate leadership team features familiar and new faces.

 Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois is on track for another term in the No. 2 spot. The No. 3 position is to be filled by Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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