- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2016

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer vowed Sunday to scrutinize President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks “very, very carefully” during the confirmation process, saying Sen. Jeff Sessions in particular won’t get a pass for attorney general just because he’s a colleague.

Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, also said his troops will take a pragmatic approach to dealing with the Trump administration, helping him on issues like infrastructure and blue-collar jobs while refusing to go along with his hard line on immigration.

“We’re not going to help him build his wall. We have a comprehensive immigration reform bill that builds in much tougher border security and it had bipartisan support than he’s ever called for,” Mr. Schumer told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “So we’re not going to oppose him just because it’s Trump. But we’re certainly going to stick to our values and oppose him wherever he opposes those.”

On nominations, he said the concept of “senatorial deference” in mulling Mr. Sessions’ upcoming nomination only means that senators know him “a bit close up,” so he’ll still have to answer tough questions.

“What’s he going to do with the civil rights division, stuff like that. So it’s premature to make any decisions but, except to say a very thorough and tough vetting for a Senate colleague, as well as for anybody else,” Mr. Schumer said.

Mr. Trump’s decision to tap Mr. Sessions to lead the Justice Department isn’t sitting well with civil rights and immigration advocacy groups.

His appointment to a federal judgeship three decades ago was derailed by Senate Democrats, and the same charges leveled against Mr. Sessions in 1986 — that he wrongly prosecuted civil rights workers for voting violations and showed racial insensitivity to employees in the U.S. Attorney’s Office — have been raised.

And Democrats said Mr. Sessions has added to his record by opposing legal status for illegal immigrants and pushing for stricter enforcement of existing laws.

Mr. Schumer said he’d also like to press retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn on some of his past remarks — particularly that fear of Muslims is rational — after Mr. Trump signaled he planned to name him as national security adviser, a position that doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

“I’d certainly give him a chance to explain it, but it’s very, very troubling,” Mr. Schumer said.

Mr. Schumer will replace retiring Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada as Senate Democratic leader after a bruising election in which Democrats not only lost the White House, but managed to pick up just two Senate seats in a year in which many prognosticators thought they had ample room to swipe the five seats needed to retake the majority outright.

The New York senator said Democrats must face the fact that they failed to deliver a powerful economic message to everyday working Americans.

“When you lose an election like we did, you can’t flinch or look away from it. You’ve got to look it directly in the eye and analyze what you did wrong,” he said. “And the analysis will continue. But my preliminary reading is very simple. We did not have the kind of strong, bold and pointed economic message that appealed to these people.”

Mr. Trump offered an olive branch of sorts to the new Democratic leader on Sunday, while getting one more shot in at Mr. Reid, who frequently had railed against Mr. Trump from the Senate floor.

“I have always had a good relationship with Chuck Schumer,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “He is far smarter than Harry R and has the ability to get things done. Good news!”

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