The Speaker’s Lobby: What’s in a Name?

By: Chad Pergram, FOX News

02 March 2009


We’ve all Googled the name of a restaurant. Xeroxed documents at work. Friended someone on Facebook.


In other words, we’ve all morphed a noun into a transitive verb.


And now, some Democratic House members of New York’s Congressional delegation have metamorphosed the name of their state’s senior senator as well.


No one’s ever questioned the ability of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to score headlines. But that same tenacity prompted some New York Democrats to coin a phrase to describe Schumer’s sometimes assertive media tactics: “Getting Schumed.”


“Yep, we’ve all been Schumed at one time or another,” chuckled one New York City lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “That’s Chuck.”


Exactly what “getting Schumed” is depends on whom you ask.


A couple of New York Democrats laughed off the term. One remarked that it was an “endearing” way to refer to Schumer’s sharp-elbowed approach to politics and his willingness to go to the mat on issues he feels strongly about.


“What can I say? He gets things done that way,” said the House member.


When an aide from the New York delegation was asked whether lawmakers joke about the term, the staffer replied, “Well, we like to think that they’re joking.”


See, some New York Democrats aren’t enamored with the description.


One lawmaker said “getting Schumed” is when Schumer allegedly big foots a press conference or steals another lawmaker’s political thunder.


“You’ve worked really hard on something and then he just kind of swoops in,” said the Congressman. “You get Schumed.”


“The thing with the senator is that he pushes everyone out of the way,” added another.


But one member of the delegation indicated that lawmakers who feel they’ve “gotten Schumed” bear some responsibility.


“Those who are Schumed deserve it,” said the lawmaker, indicating you might not have successfully staked out your territory on an issue.


Still, one Democratic New York House member went as far to assert that Schumer was behind the controversial appointment of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate. Voters barely elected Gillibrand to a second House term last fall before Gov. David Paterson, D-N.Y., tapped Gillibrand. This particular lawmaker suggested that Schumer lobbied Paterson to choose a neophyte like Gillibrand rather than a more experienced lawmaker so he could siphon more attention for himself.


“He Schumed the governor. The state’s been Schumed,” fumed the House member.


But a longtime former Schumer aide dismissed that charge.


“A political conspiracy theory sometimes takes on a life of its own,” scoffed the former staffer. “ I think the black helicopters are circling overhead.”


While Schumer’s always commanded a certain amount of attention, the aide suggested that a spike in the senator’s stock could fuel some of the strain between him and his fellow Democrats.


“It’s New York politics,” said the former aide. “Everyone thinks they can be the senator.”


For instance, Schumer’s always been a go-to figure for reporters on financial and monetary issues. But his profile grew as the country spun into an economic decline last year. Plus, Schumer chaired the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the panel charged with electing Democrats to the Senate. During Schumer’s stewardship, Democrats picked up six seats to win control of the Senate in 2006. In 2008, Schumer raised nearly twice as much money as Republicans and bolstered the Democratic majority, putting them within striking distance of the magical 60 vote threshold (to cut off filibusters) in the Senate.


Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon said the senator is a team player.


“Senator Schumer is hard-working, effective and aggressive in fighting for New York and the things he believes in,” said Fallon. “But he’s always mindful of working with his colleagues.”


Reflective of that, one upstate lawmaker declared that his relationship with Schumer has improved in recent months.


And at least one New York Democrat seemed more jealous than angry of  politicians etymologically converting Schumer’s from a proper noun into a transitive verb.


“We all wish our names were verbs,” said one Congressman.


The lawmaker laughed when asked what names of other New York lawmakers could be transmogriphied into verbs. “Rangeled” for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y. Perhaps “Israeled” if Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., buttonholes you about his favorite baseball team, the New York Mets.


But this particular representative was clear on the surname of one New York politician he wanted to steer clear of: former Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y. Fossella retired from Congress this year after a DUI conviction which revealed he fathered a child with a former House military liaison despite being married and the father of three.


“I’d rather be Schumed than “Fossella’d,” said the lawmaker.


– Chad Pergram covers Congress for FOX News. He’s won an Edward R. Murrow Award and the Joan Barone Award for his reporting on Capitol Hill.