Schumer used his speech to deliver a quick and optimistic summary of what he characterized as a changed atmosphere in Washington that heralds the decline of the Tea Party, the reactionary conservative wing of the Republican Party that engineered a government shutdown last year during stalled negotiations on the federal budget.
"The stranglehold of the Tea Party is breaking," Schumer said to enthusiastic applause.
Work remains to be done, and Schumer said his highest priority is to increase federal funding to education.
He reminded delegates that the Senate has reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which unravels the worst parts of the punitive No Child Left Behind federal education policies from the Bush era. A strong labor movement is the best road to further gains, he said.
"We have to stand strong," Schumer said. "We are turning the corner, and the next few years in Washington will be so much better than the last few years have been, and you will be there with us."