Charles “Chuck” Schumer is a Jewish American politican who is currently the senior senator from New York.
Schumer was born on November 23, 1950, in Brooklyn to a Jewish family of Russian, Polish and Austrian descent. After graduating from James Madison High School, he attended Harvard University and earned his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1974. He was elected to the New York State Assembly at age 23, one of the youngest members since Theodore Roosevelt, and was first elected to the House of Representatives at age 29. In 1998, Schumer upset Al D’Amato to become New York’s junior Senator. Schumer was re-elected in 2010 and again in 2016.
Schumer is currently serving, or has served, as a member on the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, the Judiciary Committee and the Rules Committee. Before his election to the Senate, Schumer represented the Ninth Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens for nine terms.
Since his election to the Senate, Schumer has made improving New York’s economy his top priority. He has been particularly successful in bringing affordable air service to Upstate New York, helping deliver new airline JetBlue to Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse and working with low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines to expand service to Albany.
Schumer also established an Economic Development Initiative (EDI), a comprehensive effort to attract new businesses and financial resources to Upstate New York. As part of EDI, Schumer has held business roundtables throughout the state, organized meetings between economic development officials and the site selectors who help businesses decide where to locate offices and factories, and sent a brochure promoting Upstate’s merits to CEO’s in New York City.
Improving access to quality education is another of Schumer’s long-term priorities. He is leading the charge to make college tuition tax deductible for most American families and has developed a “Marshall Plan for Teachers,” which would provide a series of incentives to attract the best and brightest to teaching.
Schumer is also working to ensure that all Americans have quality health care and access to affordable prescription drugs. He is currently fighting to restore hospital cuts inflicted by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, provide seniors with a prescription drug benefit under Medicare, and knock down the barriers that delay low-cost generic medications from coming to the marketplace.
A member of the Banking committee in the House and the Senate, Schumer worked for a decade to pass the 1999 Financial Services Modernization legislation, which modernizes regulations governing the US banking, securities and insurance industries. He played a key role in drafting language to ensure that financial companies serve traditionally underserved areas and has exposed unequal lending practices of banks and predatory lending practices of subprime lenders in minority communities.
Throughout his years in Congress, Schumer has been a pioneer in the fight against crime. His work in this area led Attorney General Janet Reno, the nation’s top law enforcer, to state, “I have never met a public official more dedicated to fighting crime than Mr. Schumer.”
Schumer sponsored and helped pass the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994, 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. As of August 2000, the Crime Bill’s COPS program had put 11,461 new officers on New York’s streets.
Schumer has also worked to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children. He authored the 1993 Brady Bill, which instituted mandatory background checks for handgun purchases, and the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. In the Senate, Schumer won the first federal funding for Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester to implement Project Exile, a program that enforces strict sentencing guidelines for illegal gun possession.
To protect a woman’s right to choose, Schumer wrote the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes blockading family planning clinics a federal crime. He also authored the Violence Against Women Act, the first federal legislation protecting women from domestic abuse, and has been a leader in the fight against hate crimes and terrorism.
After being re-elected to his fourth Senate term in 2016, Schumer was unanimously elected Senate Minority Leader; the first Jewish person to ever hold the position. In 2021, when the Democrats took control of the Senate, Schumer became Majority Leader, making him the highest-ranking Jewish official in history.
Speaking after Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock, and Alex Padilla became members of the Senate, Schumer said, “With the swearing in of these three senators, the Senate will turn to Democratic control … under the first New York-born majority leader in American history.” It was quite an accomplishment for “a kid from Brooklyn, the son of an exterminator and a housewife, a descendant of victims of the Holocaust.” He added, “That I should be the leader of this new Senate majority is an awesome responsibility. Awesome in the biblical sense, as the angels that trembled in awe before God. Today I feel the full weight of that responsibility.”
Schumer lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Iris Weinshall. They have two daughters, Jessica and Alison.