Getty Images

Vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2018 are already identifying areas where they’re willing to work with President-elect Donald Trump and Republican colleagues. 

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is ready to work with Republicans on legislation to invest in “clean coal” technologies.

{mosads}More broadly, she says she’s willing to work across the aisle on regulatory reform.

“My priority is standing up for North Dakota, not party politics. The reason I’m in the U.S. Senate is to work with Republicans and Democrats to get things done,” she told The Hill in a statement.  

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.

“My responsibility to Hoosiers is to support the best ideas, regardless of whether the idea comes from a Republican or Democrat,” he said in a statement.

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.

“If it creates jobs, strengthens our economy, and is good for Montana then chances are I’m on board.  We can’t just say ‘no’ because the idea comes from the other side of the aisle,” he said.

All three Democrats represent states that Trump won in a landslide this month.

They all appear to realize they need to show off their bipartisan credentials early to avoid GOP attacks down the line.

While outgoing Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) didn’t want Democrats to work with vulnerable Republicans ahead of the 2016 elections, his heir apparent Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is signaling a willingness to let his members do what they need to do to survive in the next Congress.

Schumer named another vulnerable Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), to his leadership team.

Manchin voted against Reid serving another term as leader after the 2014 midterm election and recently slammed him as divisive for criticizing Trump in the wake of his victory.   

A spokesman for Manchin said his top priorities next year include working with Trump and Republicans to pass the Miners protection Act, roll back “harmful regulations” on coal, renegotiate trade policies and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. 

Trump won West Virginia with nearly 69 percent of the vote. 

Tester and two other Democrats up for reelection in 2018 in states won by Trump, Bob Casey (Pa.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio.), are cosponsors of the clean coal bill.  

That bill had little chance of moving while Reid was in charge. He once declared with typical bluntness “it doesn’t exist… there is no such thing as clean-coal technology.”

Democrats in tough races have been quick to call for putting the bad blood of the election behind them and focus on delivering results for constituents. 

“Working across the aisle with her Republican colleagues to forge compromise and advance bipartisan ideas is exactly what Claire’s done since she joined the Senate—regardless of which party holds the White House or who’s in charge of Congress—and it’s exactly what she’ll keep doing,” said John LaBombard, a spokesman for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who is expected to run for re-election in a state that Trump won with 57 percent of the vote.  

Tax reform is one area where Republicans could see cooperation from Democrats.

Jim Kessler, a former aide to Schumer who now serves as senior vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, says “it’s possible” that Senate Democrats help Republicans pass a tax reform package. 

“I think the key words are revenue neutral,” he said. “Particularly if you’re looking at the business side. If it includes provisions to help businesses grow and stay here and employ here, there’s always been appetite among Democrats to do that.” 

Twelve Senate Democrats bucked their leadership in 2001 to vote for the first round of then President George W. Bush’s tax cuts. Of the defectors, only Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) is still in the Senate. 

“There could be a number of vulnerable Democratic senators who are up in 2018 that are going to be looking over their shoulders and thinking this is going to be pretty popular,” said Bill Hoagland, senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said of tax reform. 

Repealing and replacing ObamaCare is a tougher subject, Democrats say, because of lingering bad feelings over Republicans’ refusal in recent years to move any legislation to improve President Obama’s signature legislative issue.

“I’m not sure that Democrats are going to rescue Republicans from the train they’re about to throw themselves in front of. There’s a fair amount of bitterness that Republicans were not reasonable players in the [Affordable Care Act] discussion,” said Kessler.

Democratic strategists predict Republicans will pay a political price if they repeal ObamaCare, throwing as many as 20 million people off insurance plans, and fail to pass new reforms to soften the blow. 

“The politics of healthcare have flipped,” said the senior Democratic aide. 

Another issue with new momentum is authorization to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which the Obama administration shut down.

Ten Democrats voted last year to approve the Keystone pipeline. Six of them are running for re-election in states that Trump won: McCaskill, Manchin, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Tester and Casey.

Tags Bob Casey Charles Schumer Claire McCaskill Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Harry Reid Heidi Heitkamp Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Jon Tester Sherrod Brown

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video