Trump and Schumer Begin the Battle of New York

Trent Lott sees similarities to his relationship with Clinton

Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on the West Front of the Capitol as his family looks on. His relationship with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer will go a long way toward determining how much Congress can get done. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

New Yorkers pride themselves on being brash and tough, and that was obvious in the give and take on Inauguration Day between the newly minted 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, and his chief antagonist, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

And for at least one former Senate opposition leader, the back and forth between the two all seems quite familiar, and a good harbinger.

At the end of the ornate post-inauguration lunch in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, Trump couldn’t resist a bit of a jab at Schumer about the standoff between Democrats and Republicans over the pace of confirmations in the Senate: “Our Cabinet is lined up and ready, and I know Chuck is going to approve of them, I’m sure. I really believe that.”

That tiff spilled over onto the floor of the Senate Friday night as senators traded barbs. Republicans accused Democrats of slow-walking nominees because they’re pouting about the election; Democrats accused Republicans of rushing through nominees who didn’t fill out required ethics agreements, and pointed to GOP delay tactics on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

But that seemed a long way off during the Statuary Hall lunch, particularly when Schumer presented Trump with a framed photo of the new president’s inauguration.

“Mr. President, earlier this year, Iris and I were truly blessed. We watched our older daughter Jessica marry the boy of her dreams. We’re so happy. That’s when I learned, though, that nothing’s official until there is a photo of it. Mr. President, now it’s official. I present to you the photograph or your inauguration,” Schumer said, as the two men, while not exactly embracing, touched each other as familiars.

And it all played out in the shadow of Trump taking to Twitter earlier this month to call Schumer the “head clown” of the Democrats bent on obstruction.

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican who was President Bill Clinton’s chief foil in the 1990s, said this all reminds him of a time when he and Clinton squared off but still got things done.

“We were kind of like President Trump and Leader Schumer. We were a couple of Southern boys who lived just across the creek from each other. He couldn’t fool me. And I couldn’t fool him. I knew his kind, and he knew mine. We did business,” Lott said, listing off a series of accomplishments like tax cuts and a welfare overhaul.

“I think you’re going to see, whether Republicans like it or not, that Donald Trump, the president, will be working with Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate,” Lott said.

That’s not to say Trump and Schumer won’t revel in the thrill of the fight.

“I’m tough, and you know what? New Yorkers deserve that. They work hard, they fight it out, they slug it out,” former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said when she was running for mayor in 2013, a race she fell short in during the Democratic primary. It’s a sentiment New Yorkers revel in. They fight.

But that doesn’t mean it’s personal, or gets in the way of moving forward, at least according to Lott, who saw them both upfront at Friday's inaugural activities.

“Probably a little tension, probably a little friendly, a little New York jousting. I think they know how to do business,” Lott said.

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