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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer is fast rediscovering the joys of running a 50-50 Senate: stubborn centrists, irritated base, uncooperative opposition — and virtually no margin for error.

Why it matters: This will be his reality for two years unless he blows up the filibuster. Truth is, managing a divided government is a drag unless you dispense with rules and traditions.

  • How Schumer handles the unusual power struggle will cement him as a powerful Senate leader or relegate him to political sideshow.

Between the lines: Several new power dynamics could further weaken his grip on the party.

  • Moderates hold immense power, both because of the razor-thin majorities in Congress and President Biden's commitment to bipartisanship. They don't need to go through Schumer; instead, many have gone straight to Biden.
  • Progressives are skeptical Schumer has their best interests at heart. That's in part why Sen. Bernie Sanders came out ahead of Schumer and publicly stated the party would be using the power move of budget reconciliation to pass coronavirus relief legislation.
  • Minority Leader Mitch McConnell keeps trying to force him into a corner, most recently by holding up the Senate power-sharing accord, which effectively blocked Democrats from taking over the committees until Wednesday — two weeks after they regained the majority.
  • Republicans are rallying around the idea that Democratic lawmakers and Biden's White House staff are pushing the president to be more partisan than he is. Like moderates, they, too, are skirting Schumer. They would rather deal with the president himself.

He's also facing trouble at home, as Politico points out.

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives have flirted with the idea of challenging Schumer for his Senate seat. He's up for reelection in 2022.
  • Andrew Cuomo, governor of Schumer's home state of New York, is pressuring the leader to ensure more money for state and local aid makes it into the final stimulus package.

The bottom line: All of these factions are closely watching Schumer to see how he reconciles their differing demands in the upcoming stimulus fight, which will be the first test of whether he can walk this tightrope without alienating members.

Go deeper

Schumer, McConnell reach power-sharing agreement in 50-50 Senate

Photo: Olivier Douliery/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Wednesday that he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had finalized a power-sharing agreement, breaking a stalemate after weeks of negotiations.

Why it matters: The agreement will allow Senate Democrats to take control of committees, which play a pivotal role in crafting legislation and holding hearings. The Senate will formally pass the organizing resolution later on Wednesday.

Feb 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Chamber warns Biden not to submit to progressive wish

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer talks about the Democrats' $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal Tuesday. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging the Biden administration not to go around Republicans to pass the president’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, a move being pushed by the Democrats’ progressive wing.

Why it matters: The historically conservative group fears that if President Biden submits, it could foil any shot at bipartisanship for future legislation, such as highly anticipated plans for infrastructure and climate change bills.

Progressives relish Biden's tweet in support of minimum wage policy

Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Photo: Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images

Rep. Pramila Jayapal said Wednesday that when she feared a $15 minimum wage was about to be cut from President Biden's COVID relief package, she and her staff urged the White House to have progressives’ backs. Biden tweeted within the hour.

Why it matters: Former President Trump was famous for his use of Twitter, particularly to advance his own causes and beliefs, but now Democrats are enjoying a new bully pulpit to blast their narratives and policies to the masses.