By Ryan Rosenberger
With the election now in the rearview mirror, there are still many unanswered questions about what the next four years will look like under a Joe Biden administration.
With a raging pandemic, economic downturn and a country that remains divided as ever, President elect Biden will have his hands full when he takes office on January 20.
One of the biggest questions facing the incoming Biden administration is how President-elect Biden will work with Kentucky senator and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell, who was recently elected to his seventh term and is the longest-serving Republican leader in history according to CNN, has long been criticized for being an obstructionist to Democratic administrations.
McConnell so famously blocked President Obama’s supreme court nomination of Merrick Garland, before letting President Donald Trump appoint Neil Gorsuch to the bench.
But McConnell and Biden have a history of getting along.
McConnell was the only senate republican to attend the funeral of Biden’s son in 2015, according to POLITICO, and forged a relationship together after being colleagues for years in the senate.
McConnell even invited then Vice President Biden to speak at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville in 2011, according to WKYT.
“They have negotiated big things before. They’ve come through some very hard and even bitter fights over judicial confirmations,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “I think they’ve managed to stay friends or have a working, professional relationship even in the hardest of times.”
Both Biden and McConnell might have incentive to work with one another. If both run-off senate races go McConnell’s way in Georgia, he will have to protect a slim republican majority in the senate. President-elect Biden campaigned on crossing the aisle and negotiating with the other side when the time calls for it.
“I campaigned as a democrat, but I will govern as an American president,” Biden said. “The presidency itself is not a partisan institution.”
The president-elect himself has a long history of cutting deals from across the aisle, especially during his 36 years in the Senate.
Foreign policy is a particular issue of note, according to foreignpolicy.com. In the early 1990s, Biden worked with republican senators Bob Dole and John McCain to push for US military involvement in the Balkans.
Biden also led the charge in accepting Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary into NATO, a move that was also deeply popular with Senate Republicans.
Despite McConnell’s long documented history of obstruction, he and Biden also cut their fair share of deals during the Obama era as well.
The United States found itself in a budget crisis at the end of 2012, and it was McConnell and Biden sho struck a deal at the last minute to avoid a vast economic downturn, according to NPR.
McConnell himself acknowledged he and Biden’s extensive history of working together.
“The guy in the administration to negotiate with was the Vice President, not the President,” McConnell said. “With Biden, we didn’t waste a lot of time talking about things we knew we would never agree on. I didn’t lecture him, he didn’t lecture me. We got down to the areas where there was a possible agreement and were able to get to an outcome. A very different experience from being in a negotiating setting with the President.”
But there are also those who fear that McConnell’s stranglehold on the Senate will mean vast veto power towards Biden’s agenda.
“No matter what happens in Georgia, it’s going to be really hard to get anything passed in the Senate,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told CNN. “What I really worry about is an instant constitutional crisis where Mitch McConnell refuses to confirm any of Joe Biden’s nominees unless they have received a personal stamp of approval from Mitch McConnell.” With Biden due to be sworn in Jan. 20, few may be able to predict how the next four years will go under the new president elect. But in a time of nationwide turmoil and deep political divisions, Biden’s willingness to reach across the aisle might play a defining role in his presidency.