Will 'trusted partners' Biden and McConnell become enemies post 2020? A look at their 'deal-making' relationship
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) might always have been on the opposite sides of the political aisle but it does not necessarily mean that they were always at each other's throats. In fact, the pair have a long history of getting along with each other both in the world of politics as well as outside of it – even at the risk of evoking the wrath of their respective parties.
The former vice president was famously known for his habit of trying to cut deals with McConnell during the days of ex-POTUS Barack Obama's administration which earned him many scathing glances from the liberals. However, some Democratic lawmakers saw it as Biden's best efforts to get anything done in Washington, especially when a GOP-controlled Senate was hell-bent to torpedo a liberal president’s priorities at the time.
“Some of the Democrats would say, "Joe always wants to make a deal. Joe always wants to make a deal. And I’m thinking: Hell, yeah, that’s his job." Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) said in an interview with Politico on Thursday, November 5. “Why wouldn’t he want to make a deal?” Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) also told the outlet: “They have negotiated big things before. They’ve come through some very hard and even bitter fights over judicial confirmations. But I think they’ve managed to stay friends or have a working, professional relationship even in the hardest of times.”
Rohit Kumar, McConnell’s domestic policy adviser at the time when Biden was VP, said in an interview that he felt Biden’s negotiating style was superior to Obama’s. “Biden handles negotiations in a very practical matter. ‘You know, we gotta get a deal. You have to trust me when I tell you what I can and can’t do,’” said Kumar, who now helps lead PricewaterhouseCoopers’s national tax office. “That was a pretty stark contrast with how Biden and Obama handled the negotiations.”
Apart from being longtime senate colleagues and combatants, McConnell also maintained a cordial relationship with Biden's family. He was the only Republican senator to attend the funeral for Biden’s son Beau in 2015. And despite many of his colleagues as well as President Donald Trump repeatedly bringing allegations of corruption against Biden’s other son, Hunter, McConnell has largely stayed away from joining the ranks.
McConnell called Biden a "trusted partner," during a 2016 public tribute to him just before the former vice president left office. In 2011, Biden appeared at the McConnell Center in Kentucky, stating that the audience wanted “to see whether or not a Republican and Democrat really like one another. Well, I’m here to tell you we do.”
It is believed that the Democrats threw their support behind a moderate like Biden over more far-left presidential candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) because of his ability to work with the other side, predicting “you'll see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends” if he wins -- given the scenario that the liberals were unable to flip the Senate. Biden has since built on the promise of his give-and-take relationship with a GOP-controlled Senate. “I campaigned as a Democrat, but I will govern as an American president,” Biden told reporters Wednesday. “The presidency itself is not a partisan institution.”
But if sources are to be believed, Biden might not easily get what he wants if he goes on to win the presidential race. This might have something to do with the fact that he will not be second-charing the main guy in the White House this time and instead, calling the shots himself. A source close to the majority leader told Axios that while the Senate was prepared to work with Biden to confirm centrist nominees, they will reject so-called "radical progressives." They would also do all they could to limit a Biden agenda, adding: "It's going to be armed camps."
“Mitch McConnell will force Joe Biden to negotiate every single Cabinet secretary, every single district court judge, every single U.S. attorney with him,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “My guess is we’ll have a constitutional crisis pretty immediately.” However, McConnell referred to Biden on Wednesday as his “old friend.” One unnamed Republican senator who knows both men told Politico that Biden and McConnell that the two of them could bounce back and revive their friendship if needed. “It’s a long relationship, and they understand each other,” the lawmaker said.