Throughout his career, Charles “Chuck” Schumer has fought to make government work for all Americans by cutting through red tape and finding common-sense solutions to challenges facing the middle- class. Chuck has become known for his tireless work to reduce crime, increase economic opportunity, and expand access to higher education, affordable health care and housing.
Although Chuck’s career has taken him from the New York State Assembly to the U.S. House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate, he still resides in Brooklyn with his wife, Iris Weinshall, and their two daughters, Jessica and Alison. He is known as one of America’s hardest working and most accessible elected officials – countless New Yorkers from all walks of life have interacted with him during his appearances at town hall meetings, parades, festivals, community events and graduations. Each year, Chuck visits all of New York’s 62 counties and is a constant presence all across New York.
The eldest of three children, Chuck was born on November 23, 1950, in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY to his parents, Abe and Selma Schumer. His father, Abe, who grew up in Utica and served as a radar operator in planes flying over the Himalayas in World War II, took over his father’s exterminating business after the war. Shaped at an early age by his father’s experiences as a small businessman, Chuck has never forgotten the difficulties faced by middle-class New Yorkers who work hard to create a better life for their families.
Chuck attended public school in Brooklyn at P.S. 197 and Madison High School; he was a hard working basketball player and a good student who became valedictorian. He also worked in a printing shop for a Brooklyn High School teacher named Stanley Kaplan, who was in the early stages of building his test preparation business. In 1967, he attended Harvard, becoming the first in his family to attend college. At first, he studied chemistry, but soon became active in the College Democrats, working on Eugene McCarthy's 1968 Presidential campaign. After graduation, Chuck attended Harvard Law School where he further developed his commitment to a career in public service.
Early Career & Accomplishments
1974 - 1980
New York State Assembly
In 1974, Chuck returned home to Brooklyn to run for the New York State Assembly as a representative of the forty-fifth Assembly District. At the age of 23 he became the youngest member of the legislature since Theodore Roosevelt. Chuck spent six years in the Assembly, where he:
- Wrote and passed legislation encouraging efficient use of rent-controlled properties;
- Protected cemeteries from vandalism by writing legislation requiring they be fenced and guarded;
- Limited noise pollution by banning motorcycles from residential streets between 9 pm and 8 am;
- Conducted a study showing that unnecessary ambulance calls created life-threatening medical delays; and
- Increased penalties for arson in houses of worship.
1980 - 1998
U.S. House of Representatives
In 1980, at age 29, Chuck was elected to represent the 9th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Over the course of his 18 years in the House, representing parts of Brooklyn and Queens, he earned a reputation as a no-nonsense crime fighter and consumer advocate, writing and helping pass some of the most important pieces of legislation of this era, including:
- The 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill which put 100,000 new cops on the street, enforced "three strikes and you're out" sentencing, and created after school programs for troubled teens;
- The Violence Against Women Act, the first federal legislation protecting women from domestic abuse;
- Forcing credit card companies to disclose interest rates in a now familiar chart, seen on all credit card solicitations and bills, known as the “Schumer Box”;
- The Brady Bill, which instituted mandatory background checks for handgun purchases;
- The Assault Weapons Ban, which outlaws the manufacture and importation of 19 types of semi-automatic weapons, including the Uzi, AK-47 and Tech-9; and
- The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which made blockading family planning clinics a federal crime.
- Exposed a 90% increase in breakfast cereal prices in a 1995 report entitled "Consumer in a Box", and demanded that the Justice Department investigate breakfast cereal antitrust violations;
- Authored the 1992 Anti-Auto Theft Act, which requires car manufacturers to mark often-stolen parts with an indelible ID number in order to make it easier to crack down on theft. The bill also included an anti-car jacking provision; and
- Sponsored the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, which organized data on crimes of bigotry, as well as the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would allow federal authorities to prosecute these offenses.
New York's Senior Senator
Career & Accomplishments | 1998 - 2004
Fighting for All New Yorkers in the Senate
In 1998, Chuck ran for the United States Senate and, after a hard fought primary and general campaign, defeated a three-term incumbent. When the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan retired in 2000, Chuck became the state's senior Senator. As a candidate for Senate in 1998, Chuck promised that if elected, he would visit each one of New York’s 62 counties within his first term. He kept that promise, and has since visited every county in New York State every year.
As Senator, he has made improving New York’s economy his top priority, bringing low- cost air carriers like Jet Blue and Southwest to Upstate New York and the Hudson Valley, preserving vital markets and support programs for New York State agriculture, and supporting massive investments in New York highways, subways and infrastructure. Chuck has also been a leader in:
- Making generic drugs more accessible, saving consumers $70 billion over ten years;
- Creating a college tuition tax deduction for middle class families;
- Passing new laws to protect our children from sex offenders;
- Keeping our veterans’ hospitals open and providing adequate care to our returning troops;
- Holding down property taxes by delivering vital federal aid for localities struggling under back-breaking Medicaid and education costs; and
- Increasing the efficiency requirements for SUVs and minivans.
In addition, Chuck has successfully fought budget cuts to New York hospitals; convinced President Clinton to bring down gas prices by releasing oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve; authored and passed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act to help fight terrorism; and protected the environment by preventing the weakening of tough anti-pollution standards.
After the horrific terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Chuck worked tirelessly to help New York recover and rebuild, including delivering $20 billion in Federal aid to spark New York City’s revival.
Career & Accomplishments | 2004 - 2010
Delivering Results as a Senate Leader
In 2004, Chuck was re-elected to office with an historic 71% of the vote, winning 61 of New York’s 62 counties after which he was awarded a seat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee which handles Social Security, healthcare and the U.S. tax code.
Chuck was also appointed Chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC). Working with then-Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), he soon produced a stunning net gain of six seats in 2006, giving the Democrats a 51-49 seat majority.
Following the success of this election, Majority Leader Reid appointed Chuck to the Democratic Leadership team by naming him Vice Chairman of the Democratic Conference. In that role, Chuck has been a leader in protecting consumers, preserving integrity in our judicial process and defending the interests of middle-class families.
Chuck’s colleagues also reappointed him to a rare second term as Chairman of the DSCC, tasking him with expanding their slim, one-vote majority. Working with his colleagues, Chuck led the party to an additional gain of eight seats in the 2008 elections. Under Chuck’s leadership of the DSCC, Democratic membership in the Senate went from 45 to 59 seats, losing no incumbents in the process.
During 2007 and 2008, Chuck served as Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, which oversees America’s economic policies. In that position, Chuck chaired the first hearings in Congress that investigated the root causes of the mortgage and financial crisis and its impact on American families and communities. Chuck was also instrumental in securing much needed resources for foreclosure prevention and offered the first tough legislation to ban predatory subprime mortgage lending and hold unethical brokers responsible.
Throughout his second term, Chuck has been instrumental in:
- Passing the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act to protect consumers from hazardous or harmful products in the wake of a year of nearly daily recalls of products ranging from toys to cribs to car tires;
- Creating a $2,500 college tuition tax credit for middle class families;
- Developing and passing an economic recovery package that sends tax rebates to all American filing a tax return, including senior citizens and disabled veterans;
- Protecting children from online sexual predators with the passage of his bill to help keep convicted sex offenders off popular social networking sites;
- Substantially increasing funding for state and local task forces dealing with internet crimes against children;
- Stopping the reckless outsourcing of security operations at American ports to foreign countries;
- Strengthening the national criminal background check system in response to the Virginia Tech tragedy;
- Raising the minimum wage; and
- Preserving the independence of U.S. Attorneys and removing politics from the courts by leading an investigation into the mass firings of U.S. Attorneys for political reasons.
In 2009, Chuck was appointed Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees campaign finance, voter registration and election law. He continued to sit on the Finance Committee; the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; and the Judiciary Committee, where he is Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration.
Career & Accomplishments | 2010 - Present
New Roles and New Responsibilities
In January 2011, at the beginning of Chuck’s third term, he took on increased responsibility as Chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) which serves to craft the Democratic agenda and unite the party’s voice in the Senate. Chuck began to mold the DPCC’s messaging arm for the Senate Democrats much in the same way he did while at the DSCC. Chuck’s ability to create policy and effectively message it beyond the Senate was instrumental in many of his colleagues’ victories in 2012.
Fall of 2012 may have been a good one for Senate Democrats, but for Chuck and many New Yorkers it was devastating. In October, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast and left thousands of New Yorkers without heat or power and many were left homeless. Chuck took their loss the Senate floor. He pushed for emergency relief and for the federal funding essential to help New York rebuild. In January 2013, thanks to Chuck’s relentless efforts with colleagues in both the Senate and the House, President Obama signed the $50 Billion Disaster Relief and Appropriations Act on top of the $9.7 Billion National Flood Insurance Program funding President Obama authorized right after the New Year. This is the largest single amount of funding ever granted to any state, and Chuck brought it home to New York.
As Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, Chuck also held the Chairmanship of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. As Chairman, Chuck was able to bring a little bit of New York to President Obama’s second inauguration held on January 21, 2013. The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, a string quartet from Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, and the chorus from PS 22 made appearances, as did the best of New York’s harvest: Hudson Valley maple syrup and apples, Saratoga sparkling water, Finger Lakes cheeses and wine, more wine from Long island’s North Fork, and honey from the Rochester area.
In the spring of 2013, as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Sub-Committee on Immigration and Border Security, Chuck lead a bipartisan delegation, the Gang of Eight, in drafting a comprehensive immigration reform package: the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. By working across the aisle and gathering support from business, labor, agriculture and religious groups, Chuck spearheaded the passage of the bill both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor, finally passing the bill with a landmark 68-32 votes in favor of reform. While the bill awaits legislative action in the House, Chuck remains a vocal advocate for comprehensive reform that will grow our economy and bring 11 million people out of the shadows.