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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On The Beginning Of The 118th Congress

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the beginning of the 118th Congress and the opportunity to build on the successes of the previous Congress. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

This is a joyful and celebratory day, but I’d like to begin on a serious note and offer my prayers and best wishes to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin and his family. What happened last night was one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen watching football, and I watch a lot of it. We’re all rooting and praying for his recovery. Damar, we’re with you every step of the way in spirit. You make us proud and we can’t wait to see you up and healthy again soon.

Now, let me begin by wishing you and all my colleagues a Happy New Year. It’s very good to see everyone as we observe this special, joyful, and solemn day.

Today marks the beginning of the 118th Congress. It’s the start of a new chapter in the grand history this chamber; a moment for renewal, reflection, and rededication. For those going through this process for the first time, days like this can seem overwhelming, almost like the first day of school.

But beneath the celebrations and receptions, a solemn truth permeates everything we do today: we are here because the American people have entrusted us to represent their needs in this great body.

So today is historic for many reasons. First, let me congratulate all colleagues from both sides of the aisle who have just been sworn in, especially my newest Democratic colleagues: Peter Welch of Vermont and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania.

I commend all of you for this immense honor, and I challenge each of you as a friend and a colleague not to let this opportunity go to waste. I will challenge myself for that as well. Because ours is truly an awesome responsibility—and I mean awesome in the biblical sense, not in the way my teenage daughters use to say it, but the kind of awe that would cause the angels to tremble before God.

This responsibility is indeed awesome. In our hands lie the trust, the wishes, the hopes, and the burdens of the American people. It is a most grave charge, but a rewarding one if done right.

I want to recognize another member making history today: my friend from Washington State, Senator Patty Murray, will become the newest President Pro Tem, the first woman in history of the Senate to hold this title. There is no one I trust more to be third in the line of presidential succession than Senator Murray; she is brilliant, pragmatic, and someone who gets things done in this chamber. 

Congratulations also to my friend the Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, on now becoming the longest serving party leader in the history of this chamber.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, so I hope we can find some ways come together – and not succumb to gridlock – for the good of this chamber and for the good of our country.

Of course, I want to thank all my Democratic colleagues for trusting me with two more years as Leader. There’s no group I’d rather work with than this amazing caucus: you’re not just my colleagues, you’re my friends. With only fifty votes – ranging from Joe Manchin to Bernie Sanders – we made history these last two years by passing the most ambitious legislative agenda in decades, since at least the Great Society and perhaps the New Deal.

All members, whether returning to Congress or retiring, can feel proud about what we’ve accomplished in the last two years. And let’s not forget, and I say this in good part to my Republican colleagues, that five of our six major bills last year were bipartisan.

And I’m proud to be making some history of my own today. Today, I have the great honor of becoming the longest serving senator from New York – the first New Yorker ever elected to the Senate five times.

To every single New Yorker who trusted me with another term as Senator, thank you.

My mentor and former colleague, Pat Moynihan, taught me that you have to dream big to properly serve the people of New York, and I’ve tried to do that every day in office: visiting each of the 62 counties every year, meeting as many people as possible, and listening to as many New Yorkers as I can. My beloved mentor Senator Moynihan served four terms, so to be elected to a fifth term is humbling, awe-inspiring, and it energizes me to keep going and keep delivering.

So thank you New York for this honor, and you can be sure that every day I get up in the morning I will give it my all to fight and deliver for you.

But, of course, I cannot do it alone. Today I want to thank all of my staff, whose relentlessness and determination are only matched by their talent and deep love for this country.

Though impossible to name all of them, I must single out one in particular, one of the very best: Steve Mann, my Deputy State Director.

He came down today to watch me get sworn in as the longest serving senator from New York, and when I do, Steve Mann will have some history to celebrate of his own as he claims the mantle of the longest serving Senate staffer I have ever had. He started with me right from the very beginning.

Steve is everything you’d want in a staffer: hard-working, loyal, caring, and a Yankee fan. But unfortunately he’s also a Cowboys fan. Not everyone is perfect, as I remind him about the Cowboys.

Kidding aside, Steve, a Rensselaer NY native, took a chance on me years ago when I first ran for office, and he’s never looked back. Though both of our job titles have evolved over the years, one has remained: friend.

To my newly-arriving colleagues, I hope all of you one day can have a Steve Mann working with you, and if you’re lucky enough, maybe yours too will become a dear friend.

Finally, I cannot forget the most important people in my life: here with me is my wife Iris, my daughters Jessica and Alison, Alison’s wife Biz, and, he kept quiet during the swearing-in I was very relieved, my four-year-old grandson Noah. They’re part of my greater family and they are my biggest supporters, motivators, and the unsung heroes of my life.

And though he’s no longer with us, I know my dad is looking down smiling today. We miss him every single day, but I know he’s right here with us in spirit.

Now is the time to set our sights on the future. As we begin the 118th Congress, this Senate Democratic majority enters the new year in a stronger position than anyone ever expected.

We have a lot of challenges ahead, but this majority is ready to meet them. We will be relentless, flexible, and work with the other side to get things done.

It won’t be easy moving forward under a divided government, but after everything we’ve accomplished with an evenly split Senate and a narrowly-divided House, there is no reason we can’t keep the streak going moving forward. Let’s not forget, as I mentioned, five of our six major bills last year were done on a bipartisan basis.

So let me say it again: after everything we’ve accomplished in an evenly divided Senate and a narrowly-divided House, there’s no reason both sides can’t keep working together for the good of our country, our beloved country.

That doesn’t mean we’ll agree all the time, or even much of the time. It doesn’t mean we’ll ignore our differences or that we will compromise on our values. We won’t do that. But party differences do not absolve either side of the need to work together when the good of the country is on the line.

If both sides are willing to give it an effort, I am optimistic that we can be far more successful than many might think. After all, if you said two years ago that a 50-50 Senate will finish as one of the most successful since the Great Society, the naysayers would have said that’s crazy talk. They would have said a 50-50 Senate is doomed to languish in gridlock.

But let’s take a look at everything we’ve accomplished over the last two years, and be proud of it:

With no margin for error, this majority enacted the historic Inflation Reduction Act, and confirmed the most diverse collection of judges—97 in total—in American history.

With bipartisan support, we enacted a historic infrastructure bill.

After decades of trying, both sides passed the first gun safety bill in over 30 years.

We approved the CHIPS and Science Act, and passed the PACT Act, and stood with our friends in Ukraine. And just a few weeks ago, both sides worked together to enact marriage equality and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

All of this done in an equally divided Senate. All of this done with a narrowly divided House.

So I hope we can continue to get things done, even with a narrowly controlled Republican House.

For whoever ends up becoming the Speaker of the House, I hope they will find a way to work with us in a productive way this Congress.

Senate Democrats are ready to reach across the aisle – and across the Capitol – to accomplish big things that will benefit all Americans.

To close, after everything we’ve accomplished over the last two years, America is stronger, healthier, and better prepared for the future thanks to the Senate working together.

And we must continue. If Republicans are willing to work with us in the new year, they will be met with an open hand.

If they are willing to come to the table, we will sit right down and do the difficult work of legislating for the people.

And if they are willing to set their sights on making our country better together, there is no reason why the success of the last two years needs to end today.

There is much we should be proud of from the 117th Congress. There is much we can be hopeful for in the 118th Congress.

Let us therefore begin the work anew, mindful of the challenges to come, but determined, without ceasing, to reward the trust the American people have placed in us.