Could bipartisanship rise with Trump government?

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President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise victory has raised hopes among a cross-section of lawmakers, business leaders and former public officials that his lack of grounding in the policy battles of recent years could improve the chances of bipartisanship in Washington. 

Lawmakers in both parties — current and former — say Trump’s election was a “disruptive” event that may redraw ideological boundaries in Washington. 

{mosads}Those with an optimistic take even think it could lead to breakthroughs on healthcare and tax and entitlement reforms, which have gone nowhere over the past six years. 

“I do think there’s a synergy available here that would not be available under other circumstances,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Monday at an event hosted by No Labels, which promotes working across party lines. 

“I think the new president makes us think about different ways to look at things because he’s going to look at things in different ways,” Blunt said. 

There is certainly much in Trump’s agenda that is not likely to appeal to Democrats, and his election followed one of the most polarizing presidential campaigns in U.S. history. 

His appointment of Stephen Bannon, a former Breitbart News executive who served as Trump’s campaign CEO, as a senior White House adviser has received stinging criticism from the left, as has his selection of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general. 

Liberals also fret that Trump will dismantle ObamaCare and undo regulations imposed by President Obama meant to combat climate change and allow some undocumented workers to stay in the country. 

At the same time, a number of Democrats have suggested that they can work with Trump on areas such as tax reform and infrastructure. Trump, for his part, has signaled flexibility, from his Monday meeting with former Vice President Al Gore to his complimentary words for President Obama. 

Those hoping that Trump will usher in an era of bipartisan legislation are counting on Trump’s career as a dealmaker in the real estate business to change the dynamic inside the Beltway. They say his shocking win is a disruption that could lead to real change. 

“The election of Donald Trump is a disruptive event for a political system that needed to be disrupted. It opens the door to enormous change,” said former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), a No Labels co-chairman. “He needs a group in Congress from both parties to come together to work for them to take them forward.”

Nearly 80 lawmakers have signed on to the No Labels national strategic agenda, which calls for creating 25 million new jobs over the next decade, shoring up Social Security and Medicare for another 75 years, balancing the budget by 2030 and making the country energy secure by 2024. 

“This is the army on Capitol Hill that will presumably at the right moment jump behind some of these big issues when support is needed,” former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R), also a No Labels co-chairman, told The Hill. “We’ll hopefully have some incentives in place to reward that kind of stuff.”

Many of them are in the new Problem Solvers Caucus in the House, which has existed formally for little more than a year. 

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who held a weekend telephone conversation with Trump, and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) are spearheading the effort in the Senate.

Manchin, who was named last month to incoming Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer’s (N.Y.) new leadership team, said he wants to pull his party closer to “the middle,” a mission he says Schumer has endorsed. 

“We have a big change in our country right now. With every change comes opportunity, so I’m looking at the opportunity to get something done,” he said. 

He said centrist Democratic colleagues, several of whom face tough reelection in GOP-leaning states in 2018, are “looking everywhere we can to work with President-elect Trump.” 

Republican leaders in both chambers will have to reach across the aisle, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) needs 60 votes to pass most major bills and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will have to make up votes he loses in the conservative Freedom Caucus. 

McConnell plans to use a special budgetary process known as reconciliation to pass some major initiatives with simple-majority votes, such as repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but many aspects of reform — such as insurance industry regulations — may fall out of its purview. 

Trump’s plan to invest up to $1 trillion in infrastructure may face opposition from conservatives worried about the debt, which could force McConnell and Ryan to rely on Democratic votes.  

“A lot of our right-wing Republican friends, the Freedom Caucus and all, they’re against infrastructure spending. There are going to be a lot of places where Paul Ryan is going to need the problem solvers because you’re going to have to pass things where you can get a majority of Republicans but not all his caucus,” said Charlie Black, a vice-chairman of No Labels and veteran GOP strategist. 

No Labels announced on Sunday a new coalition of super PACs that plans to raise $50 million to back more moderate lawmakers in the 2018 cycle. Four billionaires in addition to six donors from both sides of the aisle have already pledged their support to this effort.

The goal of the super PACs is to encourage moderate voters to go to the polls during the primaries, which many voters sit out.

  This won’t be No Labels’s first time competing in the primaries. The group used the 2016 cycle as a trial run and spent a combined $1 million on primaries in Kansas and Florida.

Their preferred candidate, physician Roger Marshall (R), defeated Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), who’s a member of the Freedom Caucus. Florida state Sen. Darren Soto (D) prevailed in the Democratic primary for the open seat vacated by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.).

Huntsman explained that the super PAC will give these lawmakers the financial protection they need to make difficult decisions, especially with other big-money and special-interest groups playing in elections and fueling primary opponents.

“You need to incentivize good political behavior,” Huntsman told The Hill following his panel. “They haven’t had any kind of financial cover. In order to do what is right is sometimes politically treacherous.”

As Trump gets ready to assume office on Jan. 20, he’s already shown a willingness to work with former rivals and Democrats. He has met with a handful of them to ask advice for filling his administration and has even considered several for Cabinet posts.

Tags Al Gore Alan Grayson Charles Schumer Donald Trump Jeff Sessions Joe Manchin Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Roy Blunt
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