A handful of moderate Democratic senators could be key to the new Republican majority's hopes of changing Obamacare, building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and working on other key agenda items the president refuses to support.
The senators mostly hail from rural red-leaning states, reports The Washington Post
and agree that they will cooperate on bipartisan legislation, just as long as Republican senators agree to work on such legislation rather than use the Senate to wield political power.
"I think you'll see that extreme legislation — whether right or left — is going to go nowhere," said Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, who agrees that he will support legislation that "Republicans and Democrats who sit down and talk to each other think will make things better for us."
The Keystone XL decision, for example, will likely depend on votes from moderate Democrats
for passage. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has said the debate will go on for several days to allow amendments to be discussed.
In the House last week, 28 moderate Democrats joined Republicans in voting to pass a bill for the Keystone project, despite threats from President Barack Obama to veto it.
North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who supports the pipeline, said that all issues call for bipartisan support, however.
"The challenges that we will have is making sure that we don’t once again spiral into the thinking that it’s OK to delay decisions, that it’s OK not to do the work of the Senate," Heitkamp told The Post.
Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker said the Democratic influence will be critical for Republicans, who are being watched closely by Americans concerned about their ability to legislate.
But Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, may have different ideas for the moderates in his party, warning last week that "any attempt to erode protections for working American families ... will be met with a swift and unified Democratic opposition.”
Many of the same moderate names are coming up often, including Donnelly, Heitkamp and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a former state governor. Sens. Timothy Kaine, D-Va.; Angus King, I-Maine; and Mark Warner, D-Va, all of whom are former governors, also come from states that will expect them to negotiate with the Republican majority.
Other Democrats deemed "gettable" by Republicans on matters including energy and economics include Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Christopher Coons of Delaware, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
Even with their majority of 54 seats, Republicans need at least six Democrats to help bills pass procedural matters, even if all 54 Republicans vote in favor of a bill, The Post notes. Further, it will take 67 senators to override presidential vetoes, which are sure to come on many of their plans.
One of the first vetoes, in addition to the Keystone XL bill, will likely come on bipartisan legislation being co-sponsored by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Donnelly to change the Obamacare work-week requirement to 40 hours a week instead of 30.
Manchin said his future in Washington may depend on cutting deals. He's mentioned running for governor again in 2016 in West Virginia, but a new attitude in the Senate may change his mind.
"It makes it much more attractive for me to stay here and keep fighting the fight," said Manchin.
Heitkamp, similarly, said she's thought about running for governor in 2016 in North Dakota, but "I feel like we’re making timely, effective decisions, that’s when there’s going to be job satisfaction.”
There are already plenty of other bipartisan plans floating around, reports The Post, including a push from powerhouse Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., against animal poaching.
Shaheen and Ohio Republican Rob Portman have released an energy-efficiency bill, and Klobuchar and Sen. John McCain are seeking legislation to allow Americans to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.
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