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Schumer’s next big headache(s)

Get ready for the Schumer squeeze.

After some major legislative victories, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is under pressure on three major fronts that are dividing his party: TikTok, Israel and the travails of indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

Let’s start with TikTok.

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation requiring ByteDance to divest its stake in TikTok within 180 days. If that doesn’t happen, TikTok would be banned in the United States.

The legislation got 352 votes, so it’s impossible for Schumer to ignore it. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) is now backing it, a boost for the bill’s supporters. The White House is also urging Schumer to take “quick” action.

On the flip side, consider this:

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) could be a real obstacle for the bill’s backers.

Progressives are sure to press Schumer to kill the House legislation.

The pressure campaign from TikTok, its users and its lobbyists is already intense.

The Senate doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to taking swings at social media companies.

Cantwell doesn’t support the House bill and has instead offered a watered-down version. Some of Cantwell’s former staffers now lobby or work for TikTok.

So if Schumer wants to move forward with the House bill, he’d be bucking Cantwell, whose committee has jurisdiction over the issue. Yet referring the legislation to committee, as we’ve noted before, is a euphemism for killing it. Plus, the Commerce panel has a huge backlog of legislation right now.

“There may be changes we want to make in the bill,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who backs the TikTok bill. “Forcing a divestiture is [something] I strongly support, and we should consider it through [committee].”

Yet Schumer isn’t the only one dealing with tricky politics on overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation passed by the other chamber. Speaker Mike Johnson is still refusing to put the Senate-passed $95 billion foreign aid bill on the House floor, even amid renewed prodding from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But even as he hammers Johnson, Schumer will have to make a decision about how to handle the House’s TikTok bill, which passed with a similar margin and with support from leadership on both sides.

On Israel: As Democratic criticism of Israel’s deadly military campaign in Gaza has ramped up in recent months, Schumer has been notably mum.

To review, Schumer traveled to Israel immediately after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack and has been an outspoken Israel backer. Schumer delivered a powerful address condemning the rise of antisemitism in the aftermath of the Hamas attack. He’s the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in U.S. history — and to the right of much of his party on Israel.

All of this informs Schumer’s perspective here as fellow Democrats — including members of his leadership team — are speaking out in larger numbers against Israel over its conduct of the war.

Schumer has emphasized that Israel must limit civilian casualties and allow the unfettered flow of humanitarian aid. But he hasn’t weighed in on burgeoning efforts by Democratic senators to overhaul U.S. policy toward Israel and impose restrictions on American aid to the embattled ally.

That could soon change. According to his office, Schumer will deliver a “major address” later this morning laying out a “plan to address obstacles to peace and a two-state solution.”

This week alone, eight Democratic senators called on President Joe Biden to end U.S. assistance to Israel if it continues to block safe passage of U.S. humanitarian aid into Gaza. Biden has intensified his criticism of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And the president said recently that an invasion of the city of Rafah in southern Gaza would be a “red line.”

Democrats are emphasizing that they want “accountability” tied to Biden’s red-line remark. That means using U.S. leverage over Israel — security assistance — to persuade Netanyahu to change course. Some Democrats are even suggesting they’d move to invoke congressional authority to block weapons sales. These are privileged resolutions, so they can hit the floor without Schumer’s signoff.

All of this has the potential to put Schumer in a very uncomfortable position.

Menendez: Schumer is continuing to stand by Menendez amid mounting criminal indictments against the New Jersey Democrat.

Schumer didn’t answer questions last week about whether Menendez should keep his committee assignments and access to classified information given the federal bribery and corruption charges against him. Schumer also re-appointed Menendez last month to the Senate’s National Security Working Group, which gets its own staff and budget.

When pressed on this, Schumer on Tuesday responded the same way he has for months — that he’s “disappointed” in Menendez for falling short of the standards expected of a senator. Menendez lost his Foreign Relations chairmanship but still sits on the panel and gets classified briefings.

— Andrew Desiderio

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.