Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer at a news conference...

Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer at a news conference in Manhattan on Jan. 6, 2013. Credit: Charles Eckert

Both of New York's U.S. senators could find themselves thrust into new and perhaps diminished roles in Washington if Republicans win an upper-house majority in Tuesday's midterm elections.

Exactly how they'd adapt remains to be seen. But any shift between majority and minority status is bound to reshuffle the day-to-day dealings in any legislative body.

Both Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are Democrats. Neither faces the voters tomorrow. Schumer is serving his third term through 2016, while Gillibrand, now in her first full elected term, could next run for re-election in 2018.

Schumer occupies a rung in the Senate hierarchy as party conference vice chairman. That's below Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. At 63, Schumer is seen as likely to continue in his role as message-crafter for the party caucus.

Before Democrats recouped the Senate majority in 2007, Schumer sought to frustrate the GOP's will on a few fronts -- and could be expected to do so again if his party falls back into the minority.

In 2003, Schumer figured prominently in the successful opposition to confirming President George W. Bush's nominee Miguel Estrada for the U.S. Court of Appeals. The nomination was withdrawn amid a Democratic filibuster.

Expect Schumer to keep a high profile within the state's body politic regardless of how the national midterms turn. Recently, he has been hitting the campaign trail for Democratic legislative and local office candidates.

For her part, Gillibrand, 47, who's identifying herself with the drive to elect more female Democrats, can be counted on to keep touting the woman she succeeded as senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At least, that is, for as long as Clinton is running or seen as running for president.

One platform for Gillibrand's fealty came last week in a panel discussion sponsored by EMILY's List, a liberal women's funding group. Gillibrand was quoted as calling Clinton "the strongest candidate the Democrats could field."

Should Democrats lose the Senate, both she and Schumer would undoubtedly take part in efforts to recoup it in 2016, when the next president is elected.

Talking points against the GOP have focused on warnings that the "Republican budget" would hurt the middle class, Medicare recipients, veterans, seniors and low-wage earners.

Expect to keep hearing them regardless of Tuesday's outcome.


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