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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer may be majority leader, yet in many ways, Mitch McConnell is still running the Senate show — and his counterpart is about done with it.

Why it matters: McConnell rolled over Democrats unapologetically, and kept tight control over his fellow Republicans, while in the majority. But he's showing equal skill as minority leader, using political jiujitsu to convert a perceived weakness into strength.

Schumer showed his exasperation while speaking with reporters Monday.

  • "All I can tell you is we are not letting McConnell dictate how the Senate operates. He is minority leader."
  • "There's huge anger in my caucus about what he's doing."
  • Schumer's team says the majority leader is wise to McConnell's approach but won't capitulate to his filibuster demands, and is happy to get President Biden's Cabinet nominees confirmed during their continued negotiations.

The same 50-50 Senate that empowers Schumer through Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote also has an inherent thin margin of error. McConnell is exploiting that to ensure Senate business still operates on his terms.

  • Schumer can't tack too far left without losing his Democratic backing, while McConnell has less downside from a defecting Republican.

The recap: Six days after Democrats regained the majority, Schumer has yet to set a clear agenda of how the chamber will operate under the new 50-50 split.

  • He and McConnell are locked in negotiations over a power-sharing accord. McConnell insists any agreement includes clear language stating Democrats will not end the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
  • In the absence of the agreement, committee chairmanships and memberships remain in favor of Republicans.
  • It was McConnell — not Schumer — who laid out the schedule for former President Trump's impeachment trial, demanding it to be pushed to mid-February. Schumer acquiesced, arguing he would use the time to pass President Biden's Cabinet nominations.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cited McConnell — not Schumer — while discussing those nominees. "I know that our secretary of State is just about to get confirmed, or so Sen. McConnell tells us," she told reporters Friday.
  • Schumer told reporters to "ask McConnell" when they peppered him with questions last week about Janet Yellen's confirmation vote for Treasury secretary.

The big question: A clear test of Schumer's muscle will center on his approach to passing the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill Biden has proposed.

  • Getting his plan through — or any substantial legislation, for that matter — will require a huge level of bipartisanship, and there's little enthusiasm from Republicans for another massive stimulus package.

What we're hearing: Schumer is warming up to the idea of jamming through the stimulus package by way of reconciliation — a budget end-around that would allow for it to pass by a simple 51-vote majority.

  • Even if that's saber-rattling, it may be his only degree of leverage over Republicans unless Schumer reverts to an all-in, partisan approach to lawmaking.

Go deeper

Capitol Police officer who died after pro-Trump riot will lie in honor

A vigil honoring United States Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 28. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died in early January from injuries sustained while responding to the siege on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, will lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Friday evening.

Why it matters: Lying in honor is a final tribute reserved only for private citizens who have rendered distinguished service to the nation, according to the Architect of the Capitol.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

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