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Chuck Schumer Could Wipe Out The Squad, And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Might Force Him To Do It

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer could potentially wipe out “The Squad,” and Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could force him to do it.

Ocasio-Cortez has only just begun her second term as a Congresswoman, but she has already made it clear that she is open to the idea of seeking higher office — even to the idea of mounting a primary challenge against Schumer.

Ocasio-Cortez, who said as recently as December of 2020 that her party needed “new leadership,” told Punchbowl News in early January, “I’m a no-bullshit kind of person. I’m not playing coy or anything like that. I’m still very much in a place where I’m trying to decide what is the most effective thing I can do to help our Congress, our [political] process, and our country actually address the issues of climate change, health care, wage inequality, etc.”

Democrats have been talking since her first year in office about the possibility that Ocasio-Cortez might primary either Schumer or his fellow Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. (RELATED: Ocasio-Cortez Won’t Rule Out Primary Challenge Against Schumer)

And in response to that possibility, Schumer said in April of 2020 that his main focus was to manage the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Schumer, who was first elected in 1998 and has served as the Senate Minority Leader since 2017, may be forced to shift focus as the new Congress takes on President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda in addition to a possible impeachment trial for outgoing President Donald Trump.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to rush the impeachment articles to a vote with no official investigation, inquiry or hearings could leave the Senate with a greater burden, since any potential witnesses and evidence would make their first appearances in the trial phase.

In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he would not reconvene the Senate until Jan. 19 — just one day prior to Biden’s inauguration — all but guaranteeing that a Senate trial would be delayed until after the new session begins.

For her part, Ocasio-Cortez has made it clear that whether or not she pursues a primary against Schumer, she will still put pressure on the Senate to act in response to the violent riot that shook Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 — a violent riot she blames primarily on Trump, but also on Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

In the days since the riot, she has already called for their resignations.

Ocasio-Cortez also voiced support for legislation, drafted by freshman Democratic Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, which called for investigations, sanctions and expulsion of any members who had attempted to “overturn” the 2020 presidential election by voting against the certification of the Electoral College vote. (RELATED: Schumer Calls For DC Rioters To Be Placed On No-Fly List)

But Schumer’s majority in the Senate is technical at best — with a 50/50 split between Democrats and Republicans and only Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker to fall back on, he will need as much Republican support as he can muster. The knowledge that he needs that support, along with an eye toward possibly increasing his majority in 2022, might drive Schumer to pursue more bipartisan issues like infrastructure, leaving the progressive issues championed by “The Squad” on the back burner.

His ability to push forward with tissues like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All will be limited, and that — combined with the fact that the 2020 Census could result in the dissolution of her Congressional district — could give Ocasio-Cortez all the encouragement she needs to mount a primary challenge against him. (RELATED: The ‘Squad’ Managed To Tank Democratic House Races — And Gain Influence)

But Schumer may prove to be a formidable opponent. He toppled a three-term incumbent, Republican Sen. Al D’Amato, after a race that CNN likened to “an old-fashioned street fight” and The L.A. Times called a “battle of pit bulls.”

He won that race with a 10-point margin, and has since set a record for margin of victory. Schumer has never lost an election, taking his first office in the New York State Assembly in 1974 when he was 23 years old.