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Hillary Clinton’s Potential Senate GOP Partners

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Republican Sens. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. Republican Sens. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Set aside, for a mo­ment, the last sev­er­al years of Wash­ing­ton his­tory, and en­vi­sion a Demo­crat­ic pres­id­ent and Re­pub­lic­ans in the Sen­ate who can ac­tu­ally forge a halfway de­cent re­la­tion­ship.

The case for why Hil­lary Clin­ton might be able to make pro­gress on Cap­it­ol Hill is that she has a his­tory of work­ing with Re­pub­lic­ans and would be open to for­ging new re­la­tion­ships. And her run­ning mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Vir­gin­ia, says he could help. “I have very good re­la­tions with Re­pub­lic­ans in the Sen­ate,” Kaine told the As­so­ci­ated Press re­cently. “There’s some people who really want to get some good work done.”

The trick for Clin­ton would be identi­fy­ing the small hand­ful of Re­pub­lic­ans will­ing to col­lab­or­ate, and the key is­sues where com­prom­ise is pos­sible. Some of the ob­vi­ous choices are the party’s lim­ited num­ber of mod­er­ates, such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Here are eight oth­er Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors whom she could tar­get, and why.

Bob Cork­er. The For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man was a key play­er in the weird saga that un­fol­ded over le­gis­la­tion to en­able law­suits by fam­il­ies of 9-11 vic­tims against Saudi Ar­a­bia. The Sen­ate over­whelm­ingly over­rode Pres­id­ent Obama’s veto in Septem­ber, but Cork­er and many oth­ers also fear un­in­ten­ded con­sequences for the U.S.—and are hope­ful that the meas­ure can be altered. Clin­ton’s cam­paign has said she would have signed the bill. Still, ne­go­ti­at­ing changes can’t be ruled out, es­pe­cially if some of the feared blow­back—such as law­suits against U.S. of­fi­cials in oth­er coun­tries—starts to ar­rive.

Jeff Flake and John Mc­Cain. Clin­ton already has something in com­mon with this pair: None of them sup­port Don­ald Trump. Flake has al­ways been a “Nev­er Trump” guy; Mc­Cain yanked his back­ing after the tape sur­faced of Trump brag­ging about sexu­ally grop­ing wo­men without their con­sent. Look­ing for­ward, both could be im­port­ant ne­go­ti­at­ors in re­vived ef­forts to move a sweep­ing im­mig­ra­tion over­haul. Mc­Cain and Flake were mem­bers of the bi­par­tis­an “Gang of Eight” that steered a bill through the Sen­ate floor back in 2013. Which brings us to an­oth­er mem­ber of that gang…

Lind­sey Gra­ham. The South Car­o­lina Re­pub­lic­an nev­er got on the Trump train either. He’s a po­ten­tial ally for Clin­ton when it comes to Syr­ia, where she has ex­pressed sup­port for a more in­ter­ven­tion­ist policy than Obama has pur­sued. Both Gra­ham and Clin­ton back es­tab­lish­ment of a no-fly zone. Gra­ham has praised Clin­ton over the years (though he cri­ti­cized her dur­ing his failed White House run), and they worked to­geth­er as part of a group that pushed le­gis­la­tion through the Sen­ate to im­prove health care for mem­bers of the Na­tion­al Guard and Re­serve.

Chuck Grass­ley. One of the big prob­lems with the Af­ford­able Care Act is that Con­gress can’t come to­geth­er to fix prob­lems with it. Re­pub­lic­ans aren’t in­ter­ested in help­ing Demo­crats make fixes to a law that they want to scrap. But with a Demo­crat­ic pres­id­ency and time fur­ther ce­ment­ing the law, some Re­pub­lic­ans might be will­ing to soften their party’s pos­ture. Grass­ley told Morn­ing Con­sult re­cently: “As a prac­tic­al mat­ter, our Con­sti­tu­tion re­quires you to work with the pres­id­ent, even if you dis­agree with them.” The Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee chair­man is also a key back­er of bi­par­tis­an crim­in­al-justice-re­form le­gis­la­tion, which brings us to an­oth­er back­er of that bill…

Mike Lee. The Utah Re­pub­lic­an, an­oth­er Nev­er Trump-er, has put a lot of work in­to build­ing con­sensus on crim­in­al-justice re­form. But Lee and oth­ers were un­able to con­vince Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell to bring up bi­par­tis­an le­gis­la­tion to re­form sen­ten­cing laws for non­vi­ol­ent drug of­fend­ers and help ease pris­on­ers’ trans­ition back in­to so­ci­ety. Clin­ton, too, has made crim­in­al-justice re­form a pri­or­ity is­sue.

Lamar Al­ex­an­der. The chair­man of the Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee has ex­per­i­ence with the days when co­oper­a­tion was a more com­mon thing. And even in the present era, he worked with Demo­crat­ic Sen. Patty Mur­ray on the bi­par­tis­an 2015 over­haul of No Child Left Be­hind that Obama signed late last year. Else­where, bi­par­tis­an med­ic­al-in­nov­a­tion le­gis­la­tion on both cham­bers, an ini­ti­at­ive the Ten­ness­ee Re­pub­lic­an has helped to steer, could be re­vived next year if it doesn’t cross the fin­ish line in the lame duck.

John Bar­rasso. He’s likely to chair the En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee if Re­pub­lic­ans hold onto the Sen­ate. The Wyom­ing Re­pub­lic­an would be poised to be a key play­er in the big in­fra­struc­ture pack­age that Clin­ton will make an early pri­or­ity. Bar­rasso, to be sure, is of­ten a par­tis­an brawl­er as head of the Re­pub­lic­an Policy Com­mit­tee. But he’s not averse to big in­fra­struc­ture meas­ures per se—he voted for huge trans­port­a­tion and wa­ter-in­fra­struc­ture meas­ures in the cur­rent Con­gress.

(Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)

National Journal

Ben Geman is a National Journal Energy and Environment Correspondent, and has nearly a decade of experience on the beat. Before joining National Journal he spent four years as an energy correspondent for The Hill, where he helped launch the paper's energy blog. From 2004-2009, Ben was a reporter for Environment & Energy Publishing, writing for Greenwire and other E&E newsletters. Ben also worked at the newsletter Inside EPA, and before moving to Washington, D.C. in 2002 he wrote for several Boston-area newspapers, including the Boston Phoenix.

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