What a difference a few weeks makes. Right up until the morning of November 8th the two parties were lined up in the political equivalent of trenches on the western front in WW1. You’d have been hard pressed to find a Democrat anywhere in the nation who wasn’t ready to declare open rhetorical warfare on Donald Trump and anyone agreeing with a single policy he endorsed. But now, with the dust largely settled, there’s a particular group of Democrats in the Senate who suddenly are finding common ground to be a good thing and are ready to work across the aisle. (The Hill)
North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is ready to work with Republicans on legislation to invest in “clean coal” technologies. More broadly, she says she’s willing to work across the aisle on regulatory reform…
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) is ready to work with the GOP and the Trump administration on military mental healthcare issues, curbing the exodus of U.S. jobs to foreign countries and combating the opioid epidemic…
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) hopes to work with Republicans to reduce the deficit, clean up Washington by stopping former lawmakers from becoming lobbyists and passing legislation to improve service at the Department of Veterans Affairs, a major Trump talking point during the campaign.
Those three are joined by Joe Manchin, Bob Casey and Sherrod Brown, all of whom have some ideas about a legislative agenda which could line up nicely with the GOP’s priorities. And Chuck Schumer isn’t doing anything to tamp them down either. Have you already guessed what they all have in common? For one very good hint, just take a look at this map of 2018 Senate seats which are up for grabs.
The GOP was fighting some stiff headwinds in the Senate this year, but in the next cycle the shoe is on the other foot. Republicans are defending seven seats plus one retiring member and none of them look very tenuous. The Democrats, on the other hand, are going to be trying to hold on to almost two dozen and they include a number of states which Donald Trump carried… some of them by considerable margins.
So what sort of opportunities might this open up? Just because some of these senators want to begin looking decidedly bipartisan and seeking support from voters who might not appreciate an attack on Trump’s agenda, that doesn’t mean they’re all going to cosponsor the Free Bushmasters For Everyone Act of 2017. But when you hear some of them talking about clean coal and saving coal mining jobs (which is decidedly different than “putting a lot of coal miners out of business“) you know they’re going to be in the mood to wheel and deal. Would that new spirit of comity extend far enough for them to approve Trump’s Supreme Court pick and remove worries about a possible filibuster? Could be. We’ve seen examples aplenty from both parties in the past where they’ve been willing to give a new president some leeway. I’m not expecting them to all suddenly jump onboard with a federal bill banning all abortions, but they clearly seem ready to find whatever middle ground there may be.
The first two years of Trump’s presidency represent a rare moment of opportunity. If the midterms produce any sort of stampede such as we saw in 2010 that could stretch to four years. But windows such as this have a nasty habit of closing before you expect them to. If an ugly midterm calendar can put a half dozen or so Democrats in the mood to cooperate there could be much on the table to be accomplished next year.