Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock

Key Senate Republicans say they can see themselves working with Joe BidenJoe BidenTucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Joe Biden wins New Jersey primary Biden wins Delaware primary MORE if he is elected president, bolstering the centrist Democratic candidate's claims that he would be able to break through legislative gridlock in Washington.

As the former vice president has slipped in some polls compared to liberal firebrand Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenConsumer bureau revokes payday lending restrictions Tammy Duckworth hits back at Tucker Carlson: 'Walk a mile in my legs' Trump criticizes Redskins, Indians over potential name changes MORE (D-Mass.), he has emphasized his track record working with Republican colleagues to pass bipartisan legislation.

Biden earlier this year proclaimed that Republicans would have “an epiphany” and start working more with Democrats once Trump left office.

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Other center-left presidential candidates, including Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 Hillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates Senate Democrats urge Pompeo to ensure Americans living overseas can vote in November MORE (D-Minn.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden hires top aides for Pennsylvania Democratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights Democrats debate Biden effort to expand map against Trump MORE (D), have similarly touted their willingness to work with Republicans.

They see it as a way to draw a contrast with Warren and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden wins New Jersey primary Biden wins Delaware primary Military madness in the age of COVID-19 MORE (I-Vt.), who want to provide universal health care coverage and free college education by ramping up taxes on the wealthy — proposals with virtually no GOP support on Capitol Hill.

It’s also a way to resonate with swing voters who are sick of partisan bickering in Washington and want the president and Congress to spend more time and energy on solving problems.

So far the 116th Congress has been a legislative wasteland, with few bills moving and the annual spending process deadlocked as the year’s end rapidly approaches.

A Gallup poll released last week showed a growing number of Americans, 47 percent, say the government should do more to solve the nation’s problems — an 11-point increase compared to 2010.

Yet Biden's willingness and ability to work with Republicans could also be a drag on his campaign with at least some Democratic voters, who don't see a willingness to compromise with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill McGrath campaign staffers to join union Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Ky.) or Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham challenger Harrison raises record-shattering .9 million for SC Senate bid Trump renews culture war, putting GOP on edge Bubba Wallace responds to Trump: 'Even when it's HATE from the POTUS.. Love wins' MORE (R-S.C.) as desirable.

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Biden himself acknowledged earlier this year that he gets "criticized for saying anything nice about a Republican."

When he described Vice President Pence as "a decent guy" he was ripped by the progressive activist and actress Cynthia Nixon, who said Pence was the nation's "most anti-LGBT elected leader." Biden then amended his remarks. 

Biden’s claim that he could achieve a breakthrough in bipartisan productivity if elected president has also been met with skepticism.

But key Senate Republicans say they feel more optimistic about working with him compared to other Democratic presidential candidates.

“I think Joe Biden has the ability to work across party lines, absolutely I do,” said Graham, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman who was one of the authors of the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill the Senate passed in 2013 but that later died in the House.

Graham said he’s not so sure whether Warren or Sanders would be as effective. 

“I don’t know,” he said when asked about the chances of compromise with Warren and Sanders. “That’s going to be the challenge of the next president, whoever they are. Biden’s track record is real.”

Graham also expressed his warm regard for Biden, which is shared by a variety of Republicans who worked with him on Capitol Hill.

“I very much like Joe Biden. I think he’s one of the most decent people I’ve ever met. He suffered tremendous tragedy,” Graham added, referring to the death of Biden’s then-wife and 13-month-old daughter in a 1972 car accident and the 2015 death of his son Beau at age 46 of cancer.

Graham said he’s “all in for Trump” but could see working with Biden “on a lot of things” if he winds up in the White House in 2021.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRomney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention Senators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (R-Alaska), a key moderate who voted with Democrats against repealing ObamaCare in 2017, said she also sees Biden as someone who could work effectively with Republicans.

“Think about some of the initiatives Biden has worked with, whether it’s Leader McConnell or just worked on a bipartisan basis. The fact that he has legislative, congressional experience and had to work in a legislative body and then worked with President Obama as one within the administration working with a legislative body does give him a level of experience that’s useful,” Murkowski said.

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Murkowski made reference to three of Biden’s biggest accomplishments as vice president, when he worked with McConnell to extend expiring tax cuts after the 2010 midterm elections, raise the debt limit in the summer of 2011 and avoid the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of 2012.

Biden also played a key role in recruiting three moderate Republicans, Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRomney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention Susan Collins signals she won't campaign against Biden Graham challenger Harrison raises record-shattering .9 million for SC Senate bid MORE (Maine) and then-Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Arlen Specter (Pa.), to support the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which stimulated the economy after the 2008 financial crisis.

Murkowski also singled out Klobuchar as a Democratic candidate who would likely work effectively with Republicans. 

But Murkowski doesn’t hold much hope for working on a bipartisan basis with Warren or Sanders.

“All you need to do is look at their approach to legislating,” she said of her two colleagues.

“I have worked on a few initiatives with Sen. Warren — I think some of the health care things we’ve done jointly focus on rural health outcomes. But in terms of one who is known for building those bridges with the other side legislatively, neither one of the two of them have in their Senate careers really focused on that,” she added.

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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Trump says GOP 'flexible' on convention plans Overnight Defense: House Dems offer M for Army to rename bases | Bill takes aim at money for Trump's border wall | Suspect in custody after shooting at Marine training facility  MORE (R-Iowa) cited Biden’s talks with McConnell at the end of 2012 to avoid the fiscal cliff.

“He did very definitely make a breakthrough. He and McConnell more or less negotiated not having a shutdown of government that year. And then you know what? The Democrats didn’t like him doing it and Obama didn’t let him do it anymore. So yes, he does have a track record,” Grassley said.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynChamber of Commerce endorses Cornyn for reelection George Floyd and the upcoming Texas Democratic Senate runoff Senators push foreign media to disclose if they are registered as foreign agents MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to the Senate GOP leadership who served with Biden on the Judiciary Committee, said Biden “has that experience” and “everybody who’s worked around Joe Biden has liked him.”

But Cornyn questioned whether Biden can win the Democratic primary.

“His party has shifted so far to the left,” Cornyn said.

Indeed, liberal activists such as Robert Borosage, the co-founder of Campaign for America’s Future, are leery of the prospect of Biden working with Republicans in 2021 and beyond.

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Borosage said “history would make you dubious of the proposition” that Republicans would have an “epiphany” under a President Biden because of how Republicans “treated Obama” during his two terms.  

“The places where [Republicans] would work for Biden are places we would not want to have happen, like the grand bargain that Obama tried to pull off with BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients Lobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Bush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT MORE,” Borosage said, referring to a deficit-reduction deal Obama attempted to negotiate in 2011 with then Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients Lobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Bush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT MORE (R-Ohio).

“The places where there would be cooperation would be places we would rather not have move forward,” he added.

Biden has a track record of working with Republicans to pass major bills during his long Senate career.

He worked with former Republican Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchDACA remains in place, but Dreamers still in limbo Bottom line Bottom line MORE (Utah) in the early 1990s to pass the Violence Against Women Act, which he later called his proudest legislative accomplishment. The bill established a new federal crime of interstate domestic violence, making it tougher for abusers to evade prosecutor by crossing state lines.

He was also an author of the broader 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which stiffened federal prison sentences and provided for new prison construction and more cops on the streets. It also included the assault weapons ban and funding for firearm background checks.

Some liberal critics have since blamed the bill for contributing to mass incarceration in the late 1990s.

Jim Kessler, the executive vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, says voters want to see the pragmatic problem-solving skills that Biden says he will bring to the White House.

“There is a longing for someone who is going to try their best to do this,” he said. “Even if voters think it may not succeed, they want somebody to try. A lot of them want somebody to try because they want an end to what seems like Washington warfare.”