Because of Republican victories in November, the new Congress has a significantly higher number of Social Security foes than the last one did. In response, a group of progressives, including Schumer, and led by Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have formed the Social Security caucus, to push back against efforts to slash benefits or privatize the program.
They'll need President Obama to have their back on this -- in part because some Democrats think Social Security benefit cuts are the way to go. On that score they're hopeful, but see room for improvement.
"I think he's mostly there, I would like to see him be even clearer," Sanders told reporters. "I would like to see him simply say what he said during the campaign...that he will not support cuts, raising the retirement age, or in any case privatization."
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) thinks exigent circumstances muted Obama to some extent, but that he'll pick up his game when confronted with a juggernaut of conservative support for gutting the program.
"In light of Arizona, in light of the seating arrangements and all that, the President didn't want to be as combative as he will need to be to beat back this effort with these [senators] starting this 'get rid of Social Security' caucus," Brown said.